Cecil is considering hiring a Carnegie Mellon University spinoff to help assess the surface conditions of roughly 100 miles of local roads.
During Monday’s supervisors meeting, officials discussed a proposal by Pittsburgh-based RoadBotics to create an interactive map of township roads. The maps the company develops are meant to help guide decisions about road maintenance and repair.
“It doesn’t do the engineering work,” said township engineer Dan Deiseroth, president of Gateway Engineers. “What it does is, it does the inspections, so that (public works director) Bill (Botoroff) and our office can look at those pictures, with the grade, and say, ‘Hey, does this make sense to take care of this road this year?’ Then you can begin to prioritize them.”
RoadBotics CEO Mark DeSantis said Tuesday RoadBotics’ software is meant to be a cost-effective, uniform and timely way of evaluating a road system.
The company says on its website it uses windshield-mounted smartphones to take video of roads, then runs them through cloud-based artificial intelligence algorithms. The software analyzes each frame in the video, taking defects such as potholes and cracks – plus signs of previous work like patches and seals – into account to create a map with numerical scores from 1 to 5 and an image for each roughly 10-foot section of road. It incorporates that data into a color-coded online map.
“That map is then used for determining, how do I deploy my maintenance team, or maybe capital budget?” DeSantis said. “I think of it as asset transparency. I now have a data-driven view of that road, meter by meter.”
He said the company has mapped roads for 20 customers – mostly local governments – in five states. Its website includes a demo showing a completed map of North Huntingdon, Westmoreland County, which was part of a 2016 pilot program.
Deiseroth called the company’s work “very cost-effective.” He said it would cost the township $55 a mile, or about $5,500.
His endorsement appeared to pique supervisors’ interest. He agreed to provide the township with a formal proposal from the company.
“We should take advantage of having CMU in our backyard,” Supervisors Chairman Eric Sivavec said following the meeting.
Township manager Don Gennuso said he expected RoadBotics’ proposal to be on the agenda for supervisors’ consideration at their March meeting.
Currently, he said, there’s “really not a written policy” to prioritize road repairs.
“But annually, the roads are reviewed and checked by our professional staff,” he said.
Botoroff works with the township’s engineer to create a list of roads to recommend that supervisors consider for repairs. This year’s budget dedicates about $1 million for the roads program.
“This is new,” Gennuso said of RoadBotics. “I’m just anxious to see what we can expect.”