A.I. and DIY: Inside Montgomery’s blue-collar approach to ‘smart city’ government

STAR Watch launched late last year. A few months earlier, a separate initiative brought in artificial intelligence to gauge the quality of Montgomery’s streets.

The city was facing $15 million worth of immediate street work, until a team from Pittsburgh-based startup RoadBotics used windshield-mounted smartphones and machine-learning technology to detect faults in the roads and give each stretch of street a quality grade. It found that the worst streets needed a total of $4 million in repairs.

“Our previous system … you had different opinions on what was a bad street and what was a good street,” Public Works Director Chris Conway said. “It could vary district to district, neighborhood to neighborhood depending on who looked at it. Using an artificial intelligence device and system, you may not agree with it but it’s consistent across the board.”