Real-time road monitors

Researchers are to develop new sensor systems for cars and trucks that will allow road and bridge infrastructure to be assessed in real-time.


Researchers at Northeastern University are to develop new sensor systems for cars and trucks that will allow road and bridge infrastructure to be assessed in real-time across the US.


Northeastern will lead the five-year VOTERS (Versatile Onboard Traffic Embedded Roaming Sensors) project along with a range of government, industry and academic partners.


Dr Ming Wang and Dr Sara Wadia-Fascetti, both professors of civil engineering at Northeastern University, will co-direct the project, which has been awarded $9m (£6m) in federal funding.


The team, assembled from university, industry and government partners, will equip vehicles, such as city buses, with multiple sensors that monitor surface conditions while the vehicle is in motion. The sensors will use acoustics and radar to monitor the roads and bridges under real driving conditions, looking for potholes and cracks in the concrete and other abnormalities that are in need of repair.


The technique will eliminate the need for current inspection methods that involve hazardous and congestion-prone highway work zones.


‘The goal of this project is to create a cost-effective and safe way to monitor our civil infrastructure under normal driving conditions,’ said Dr. Wang, principal investigator on the project. ‘This sensing technology will create a way to detect problems, both on the surface and subsurface, so that problems can be fixed more efficiently.’


Computers installed in the vehicles will control the sensors and a GPS system will pinpoint the collected data to very precise locations. Constant streams of data will be processed and reported back to base stations using a mobile phone system, which will then be analysed so that timely repairs can be made in vulnerable areas.


Northeastern will collaborate with various government, academic and industry partners on the project, including the Massachusetts Highway Department, Analogic Corporation, Infrasense, and researchers at Boston University, University of Massachusetts at Lowell and University of Vermont, in addition to the primary Joint Venture partners.


VOTERS is part of the NIST’s Technology Innovation Program.