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Artificial intelligence boosts road maintenance efficiency

Blackpool Council is the first local authority to roll out the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to make savings of hundreds of thousands of pounds and lead the way in road maintenance efficiency.

Forming a key part of the council’s ‘Project Amber’ highways maintenance strategy the use of AI technology has already been successfully piloted in Anchorsholme and Bispham.

The pilot saw engineers view the road network using space satellite image capturing, allowing the highways team to inspect and take action.

The sophisticated technology provides a valuable tool when looking for pot holes, cracks and general damage. The AI can detect damage in seconds, this results in a signal being sent to an operator who uses a colour coding system to decide what steps to take next.

Since summer 2019, 5145 potholes have been filled in North Shore which would have cost £1.5m using traditional methods. By investing in innovative technologies Blackpool Council has managed to save over £1m resulting in a final cost of just under £450k. These savings can then be allocated on improving more roads, one of which is Victory Road, set to be improved in February.

Cllr Fred Jackson, Blackpool Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for Highways, said:

“Project Amber and the use of artificial intelligence is another forward thinking and innovative approach that will deliver not only significant savings but will also benefit all road users.

“Blackpool Council is on a dynamic journey to deliver a Better Blackpool and drive regeneration. More efficient road maintenance technology can play a key part of that ambition.”

The project has gained the attention of the Department for Transport. Steve Berry, Head of local roads at the Department for Transport, said: “We hope that Project Amber will act as a showcase of what can be achieved by local authorities working in partnership with the supply chain to achieve lower whole life costs in highway maintenance through the use of surface treatments.”

Find more information about the Project Amber scheme at, www.blackpool.gov.uk/projectamber