How Sensors, Smartphones Can Bring the Road Solutions We Need

In a 2015 pilot, Carnegie Mellon researcher Christoph Mertz partnered with the city’s Public Works Department to install smartphone cameras in city vehicles to capture images of the streets in Pittsburgh. Paired with GPS data and fed through a computer algorithm, these images are classified according to the types of road surfaces and the damages pictured, something the city hopes will help them identify sections of street that need the most urgent attention. Still in testing and development, Mertz’s approach might appeal to cities hoping to get a foot in the door of street quality analytics by pursuing an affordable option that can be used continuously.