Tech start-up uses AI and robotics to tackle UK’s pothole problem

Artist's impression of Robotiz3d autonomous vehicle

A North West start-up has developed an automated vehicle capable of fixing cracks and potholes on UK roads.

Robotiz3d, based at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Daresbury Laboratory, is combining artificial intelligence (AI) with advanced robotics to tackle the pothole problem.

Almost two million potholes are fixed on UK roads annually, but with ageing infrastructure, increasing road users and extreme weather conditions, this is only expected to worsen.

Conventional and manual methods for fixing potholes are labour intensive and struggle to cope with this hazardous and costly problem.

But Robotiz3d has developed, and is about to commercialise, world-first technology designed to automate and transform road maintenance, making it faster, safer and more cost-effective.

Using advanced detection and repair technologies incorporated into the AI robotics system, the autonomous vehicle can assess and predict the severity of defects, sealing them before they worsen.

Based initially on patented research developed at the University of Liverpool, this technology can analyse the geometry of potholes, collecting measurement data as it operates.

Using AI, it couples this data with a unique prediction algorithm that will enable local authorities to predict road conditions accurately, enabling them to prioritise preventative road maintenance.

Ultimately, this will reduce the time and cost, CO2 emissions and material wastage associated with repairing potholes and cracks, while improving the life span and safety of our roads.

Robotiz3d has benefited from access to the advanced manufacturing facilities and dedicated business support available at the Daresbury site, which has included the opportunity to create a bespoke laboratory to develop its prototype, including space for the essential testing of its autonomous vehicle.

With official testing now under way, the company is making substantial progress towards commercialising its technology.

Lisa Layzell, CEO and co-founder at Robotiz3d, said: “This is the first autonomous technology of this kind developed specifically to tackle the pothole crisis which plagues many parts of the country, and which is estimated to have cost more than £1bn to repair over the last decade.

“For Robotiz3d, locating to STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory has provided us with a technologically sophisticated environment to operate in. The expertise available, both in technology and business development, have been invaluable as we move towards the commercialisation phase of our business.”

Paul Vernon, head of STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory, said: “For a small company, turning an initial idea into a viable commercial reality that can compete on a global scale can be an enormous challenge.

“At STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory, we are providing companies with affordable access to the best skills and facilities in engineering R&D so that they can develop their new technologies faster, more affordably, and with less risk.”

He added: “I’m extremely proud to be providing the Robotiz3d with the right environment and support to develop and commercialise this world-leading technology, that has the potential to transform the management and safety of our roads and highways.”