Suffolk Highways has teamed up with a Finnish AI company on a pilot aiming to better assess the state of the county’s roads.

Eastern Daily Press: Highways cabinet member Mary Evans. Picture: GREGG BROWNHighways cabinet member Mary Evans. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Suffolk Highways and Vaisala began working together in summer 2018 to develop a new dashcam-based system.

The cameras are fitted to the dashboards of highways crews' vans and collect data on the condition of roads while out and about.

That data is then banked so that the degradation of roads over time can be monitored, problems spotted sooner and maintenance work carried out more quickly.

The council currently uses a laser-based sensor which costs £170,000 a year to hire, but Conservative cabinet member for highways Mary Evans said: "The laser sensor currently used struggles in wet weather and narrow roads.

Eastern Daily Press: Suffolk County Council has already invested in thermal pothole repair equipment. Picture: SUFFOLK HIGHWAYSSuffolk County Council has already invested in thermal pothole repair equipment. Picture: SUFFOLK HIGHWAYS (Image: Suffolk Highways)

"This system gives us a consistent body of evidence. It means work can be planned much more.

"If this works it will save us about £2million over 10 years."

Mrs Evans' cabinet member report presented last week added: "The data being recorded is now starting to show good correlation with the results that are normally found from the more expensive national system for machine-driven surveys.

"Discussions are now in progress for the formal certification of this approach as a more cost-effective road condition assessment process."

Mrs Evans confirmed the dashcam technology can assess road surface, potholes, drainage, sign visibility and extent of hedgerow growth.

It is the latest in a series of improvement measures the council's Highways Improvement and Innovations Board has been looking at.

It has already invested in thermal pothole repair kit which reduces the number of temporary fixes needed on the roads, as well as being able to do it in poorer weather conditions.

Suffolk Highways now repairs potholes of 200mm diameter or more instead of the 400mm minimum previously needed, in an attempt to repair potholes earlier before they become a bigger issue.

Elsewhere, work is taking place with utility firms to review how work is co-ordinated and carried out, and come up with improvements that can ease disruption.