RoadBotics raises new funding to further develop its app-based road inspection system

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A spinoff from the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University has raised US$3.9m in seed funding that will help it further develop technology that can revolutionize the way engineering firms, local governments and municipalities manage and maintain roadways and other infrastructure.

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, RoadBotics is a developer of advanced computer vision technology for inspecting roads and infrastructure. Co-founded in 2016, by Christoph Mertz, Benjamin Schmidt and Mark DeSantis, RoadBotics has used the same deep learning-based image processing technology that moves autonomous vehicles to create a product that has been used to efficiently assess road quality in 78 cities, towns and counties across the USA and Australia.

The company says the new funding, which was led by Boston-based Hyperplane Venture Capital, will be used to refine and expand the system’s analytic capabilities and expand the 34-member operation with more sales and marketing staff.

RoadBotics uses a proprietary app and standard smartphone, placed on the windshield of any vehicle, to collect roadway image data. This information is uploaded to the company’s platform where deep learning is applied to isolate the road from other objects in each image, assess the road condition, and automatically generate a condition rating for the road surface.

This objective rating is based on the presence, type and density of the road surface features and distresses that pavement engineers are trained to identify when visually inspecting roads. Finally, RoadBotics renders the complete assessment on its interactive, online mapping platform called RoadWay.

“Continuously monitoring a road network is a hard job, particularly when they can stretch for thousands of miles. It is costly and time-intensive to put trained engineers out on the road to perform assessments,” noted RoadBotics CTO Schmidt. “Improving the quality of the world’s roads is one of the most viable ways to utilize automated, low-cost, high resolution inspection technology and we are leading the way.”

Since securing its first customer in June 2017, RoadBotics has seen rapid growth in clients from local governments, counties and engineering firms, including the city of Savannah, Georgia, and leading Australian engineering firm Fulton Hogan, which is offering the new technology across the South Pacific region.

Savannah’s chief infrastructure and development officer, Heath Lloyd, commented, “RoadBotics will allow us to better assess the overall condition of city roadways and increase the accuracy of the data collected, ultimately enabling us to more effectively manage our infrastructure replacement.

“Our goal is to use our resources as efficiently as possible, and RoadBotics helps us accomplish that by enhancing our ability to better plan and implement city-wide roadway replacement schedules.”

Peter Rodrigues, divisional manager at Fulton Hogan, said, “RoadBotics technology brings a whole new dimension to our road management services because the objective data it provides impacts all parts of pavement management, from making smarter maintenance decisions to crafting more strategic long-term plans.

“Most importantly we see remarkable potential in RoadBotics technology to reshape the world of pavement management in the very near future; soon we hope to use the system not just to inspect roads, but to assess a variety of infrastructural assets.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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