Blackpool claims £1m savings after using AI to fix potholes

Written by Sam Trendall on 4 February 2020 in News
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Local authority deploys satellite imagery and automation software

Credit: Alan Stanton/CC BY-SA 2.0

Blackpool Council claims to have saved £1m by using satellite imagery and artificial intelligence software to deal with potholes.

Since summer 2019, the local authority has been using AI software to scan images provided via satellite and detect potholes, cracks or other damage to roads. Once a new issue is identified, an alert is sent to the council’s highway-maintenance team, who then decide what action to take.

The technology has thus far identified 5,145 potholes in the Anchorsholme and Bipsham areas in the north of the town. The council claims it cost a cumulative total of about £450,000 to deal with these. This compares with a likely bill of £1.5m if they had been detected via manual methods, it said.

The tech deployment forms part of the Project Amber programme, in which the authority is trialling various new ways of maintaining roads.


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Cllr Fred Jackson, the 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.”

Steve Berry, the Department for Transport’s head of local roads, also praised the council’s work.

“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.”

The claimed cost savings of the tech scheme will surely be welcome at a time when the council is seeking to cut close to £20m from its operational costs. Those savings are needed to support an annual budget that has been reduced by £5m, but still needs to deliver a £14m increase in funding for a children’s services function that was deemed “inadequate” in an Ofsted report of December 2019.

Measures to support the cash injection include cutting 75 jobs and raising council tax by as much as 4% – the maximum increase allowed.

 

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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