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In a bid to fight against road degradation, Thurrock Council has announced that it is set to run a trial using intelligent software and cameras set-up on its bin lorries. Potholes are an increasing issue across the UK as we embark on harsher winters, but what the council is trialing is to identify spots of deterioration in its roads, the stage before potholes are created.

To support the trial, the Department of Transport has given the council £183,000, of which they are working in partnership with software developer Gaist and consultancy Social, Environmental & Economic Solutions (SOENECS).

An image library of roads and pavements in the borough will be built up from high definition cameras that, during the trial, are fitted to the council’s refuse collection vehicles. It is these pictures that will then feed into an integrated navigation and intelligent software system which employs deep learning to assist council officers in understanding the advanced signs of potholes.

Ultimately, the council aims to identify vulnerable spots and ensure they are repaired before they become potholes.

Dr. Stephen Remde, director of innovation and research at Gaist, said: “This project is really exciting and will capture the highest ever levels of technically advanced data that will provide us with a real insight into how roads deteriorate and defects form such as potholes, surface durability and day to day traffic volume damage.

“Computer vision technology is advancing rapidly and we seek to capitalise on new ‘Deep Learning’ data analysis techniques we have, to analyse and manage the huge volumes of video and related data that can be used to improve the safety of roads and provide more cost-effective repairs.”

Thurrock’s leader, Rob Gledhill, said it is the first initiative of its kind and that the council will share what it learns with other local authorities.