UK’s Derby City Council piloting AI-based system to gather highways asset data


The UK Department for Transport (DfT) is funding a new project that will allow Derby City Council (DCC) to pilot the use of cutting edge smart technology to gather highway asset information on the city’s road network.

The £52,484 (US$70,600) project in Derby, which was awarded funding through a competition process from the DfT, will use computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to automatically detect the position and condition of road signs across the city in real time.

Early trials of this pioneering technology will use a dash-mounted cell phone to create a digital map of Derby’s road sign asset inventory. This will then be uploaded to specialist software that will learn to recognize the multiple types and location of signs and enable the council to detect, on future runs, if a particular sign has been damaged, is missing, or is in need of repair.

This type of project has previously been undertaken in Norway and Finland where the software was originally tested and found to be around 98% accurate. DCC will then assess whether cameras already installed on its refuse collection vehicles can be used for this same purpose and provide continually updated footage on the council’s roadside assets.

It is also hoped that the computer vision technology will eventually mean the council’s refuse trucks, with cameras already on them can help to alert the DCC Highways Maintenance Department to these defects, as well as other issues, including potholes and highway drainage systems.

“This project will allow the council to manage its highway assets in a smarter, more efficient way. Our roads are the biggest asset we own, so it’s important we find new and innovative ways to manage them and keep Derby moving,” explained Asaf Afzal, DCC cabinet member with responsibility for neighborhoods and public protection.

“The project is being undertaken in partnership with Vaisala and ISS who both already support the council through winter maintenance and waste management operations. To have the support of these two enterprises working in partnership with us makes for a truly exciting venture. Being able to showcase connected vehicles using our own refuse fleet, we hope to exploit every opportunity to make efficiencies using our front-line services.”

Share this story:

About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).