Thurrock Council is launching an innovative way of using technology to map the roads in the borough and maintain them for road users.
In what is the first of its kind in the country, the trial – worth £183,000 and funded by the Department for Transport – will revolutionise the way potholes and other road defects are identified in Thurrock.
'Pothole-spotter' uses high definition cameras attached to Refuse Collection Vehicles (RCVs) to take quality pictures of roads and pavements in the borough.
The integrated navigation system and intelligent software will build up an image library of Thurrock's highways and help officers ‘learn’ how to identify problems before they become potholes.
This will reduce the negative impact on road uses while ensuring that council resources are used as effectively as possible – to get the best possible outcomes for local residents.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Rob Gledhill, said: "This is an exciting addition to the work already underway as we continue the Clean it, Cut it, Fill it initiative.
"Thurrock was selected as it is recognised by Government as being ready to test innovative new techniques to improve the efficiency of local services, and for which the reliability and quality of its road network is crucial for residents and businesses alike.
"This is the first initiative of its kind, using cutting edge technology and innovation that leads to better road conditions at less cost.
"I am very pleased Thurrock has been chosen by the Department for Transport as a partner in this pioneering project and I look forward to sharing how it worked with colleagues in other local authorities."
Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, Cllr Brian Little, said: "Highways maintenance is of great importance. The scheme will provide us with the level of detail not seen before on how problems on the highways become defects and then potholes.
"I am also delighted that we're using existing council vehicles in such an innovative way."
"We need to make sure our roads are fit for purpose and Pothole-spotter could transform how we do this – in a bid to provide a better experience for our residents."
Thurrock is working with strategic consultancy, SOENECS, and technical partner, Gaist, to deliver the innovation project.
David Greenfield, founder of SOENECS, said: "RCVs are the only vehicles to regularly traverse local highway networks weekly, and follow the same route each time.
"This makes them the best vehicle to use to monitor the condition of roads, pavements and street furniture, identifying issues before they become problems.
"The ultimate local authority efficiency – one vehicle two roles."
Director of Innovation and Research of Gaist, Dr Stephen Remde, said: "This project is really exciting and will capture the highest ever levels of technically advanced data that will provide us with a real insight into how roads deteriorate and defects form such as potholes, surface durability and day to day traffic volume damage.
"Computer vision technology is advancing rapidly and we seek to capitalise on new 'Deep Learning' data analysis techniques we have, to analyse and manage the huge volumes of video and related data that can be used to improve the safety of roads and provide more cost effective repairs."