Robot Self-Driving Vehicle Aims to Solve UK’s Pothole Crisis

The Autonomous Road Repair System Prevent detects and repairs cracks to slow the onslaught of potholes

Graham Hope

April 2, 2024

2 Min Read
The ARRES Prevent robot
The ARRES Prevent robot aims to prevent potholes forming Facebook/Hertfordshire County Council

A local authority in England is testing a wildly styled autonomous vehicle (AV) that aims to stop roads being damaged.

The Autonomous Road Repair System Prevent – or ARRES Prevent for short – looks like a mutant, distant relative of Tesla’s Cybertruck and is being tested in the county of Hertfordshire, just to the north of London.

The extreme machine has been developed by Liverpool-based tech company Robotiz3d, academics from the University of Liverpool and Hertfordshire Council’s highway engineers.

Its role is to try to slow the onslaught of potholes in the U.K. The country is currently experiencing something of a pothole epidemic, with breakdown organization the RAC claiming there may be more than a million already peppering the nation’s roads.

Potholes form in bad weather in winter, when water seeps into the road and freezes, causing cracks and then craters which mean delays, damage to vehicles and diversions for motorists. In the eyes of the public, much of the blame for this is down to underinvestment by the authorities, and the problem is now so widespread that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been forced to allocate $10.1 billion to address the issue.

But Hertfordshire is attempting to get on top of the crisis with its trials of the ARRES Prevent vehicle.

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It uses artificial intelligence to identify defects in the road, and then automatically fills cracks to keep out surface water. This then helps further potholes from forming.

The ARRES Prevent can be operated without a driver, thanks to a suite of cameras and sensors, or via a human operator controlling it remotely.

It is battery powered and can work after dark, meaning, in theory, that should it be put into full service, road repairs could be carried out 24 hours a day without needing constant supervision.

The AV has been in development since 2020 and although its Hertfordshire deployment is a world-first, hopes are high that it could prove a significant global breakthrough in road maintenance.

After observing its first successful test on the roads outside the town of Potters Bar, Chris Allen Smith, a highways engineer with Hertfordshire Council, said: “It’s still very much in the early development stages at the moment, but we think it’s got real possibilities … and with such a skills shortage in the highways industry at the moment, we can really see robots being deployed in the future.”

Sebastiano Fichera, Robotiz3d’s co-founder, added: “ARRES Prevent is designed to autonomously perform crack sealing tasks by combining the groundbreaking features of ARRES EYE, our cutting-edge AI-powered road survey solution with state-of-the-art robotics and unmanned mobility, to proactively reduce the number of potholes.

“Working with Hertfordshire County Council has accelerated our development pace, propelling us towards our goal of revolutionizing road maintenance practices.”

About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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