Artificial Intelligence is moving into our lives at a very fast pace. Even here at BikePortland HQ we’ve been playing with some forms of it and pondering how it might help us serve the community better. Yes it’s scary and needs to be regulated; but there are some very cool applications and I’m looking forward to seeing how it impacts the realm of transportation.
This morning I learned that Oregon City, a town of about 37,000 people about a one hour bike ride south of Portland, is using AI to help fill potholes. According to a statement just released by their public works department, they are the only city in Oregon currently taking advantage of the technology.
Called CityRover, the Public Works department has been testing the AI device to help identify and mark the location of potholes. The device works by continually scanning the road ahead while in a City vehicle, in this case, the street sweeper. It then marks spots it identifies as a pothole and relays the data to a database accessed by the City. Officials say it has been an incredibly helpful tool.
“The street sweeper drives every street in Oregon City several times a year,” said Jayson Thornberg, Street Operations Manager for Oregon City. “With this tool out there every day all day looking for potholes, it helps the City find problem areas quickly.”
The data sent to staff includes precise mapping as well as images showing the issues the machine identified. That information is then reviewed by staff who determine if what the device marked is indeed a pothole, is it within the City’s jurisdiction, and prioritize it into the team’s workflow.
It’s great to see a city taking advantage of AI like this. Portland could obviously use a lot of help with street maintenance these days as their strained work crews and lack of upkeep of protected bike lanes has become a major issue. Of course just identifying the problem spots is only half the battle — too bad AI can’t actually do the pothole filling and the sweeping.
But who knows? Are we really that far away from a Roomba-type vacuuming/sweeping robot that autonomously patrols streets and sweeps up messy bike lanes?