Connected Mercedes Vehicles to Improve Boston’s Roads

The cars use an advanced algorithm to process data when collecting information on where they encounter bumps on the road

Graham Hope

July 26, 2023

3 Min Read
Data from connected Mercedes vehicles will be collected and analyzed to identify which Boston streets require upgrading or urgent maintenance

Mercedes cars are going to be used to improve Boston’s roads in a first-of-its-kind vehicle-to-infrastructure pilot program.

Data from connected vehicles will be collected and analyzed to identify which streets in the city require upgrading or urgent maintenance, due to potholes or damaged surfaces.

The initiative – a partnership between Mercedes’ Urban Mobility Solutions and Boston’s Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) and Citywide Analytics Team – will see participating cars use an advanced algorithm to process data when they collect information on where they encounter bumps on the road.

The Mercedes vehicles taking part in and contributing are fitted with advanced suspension systems.  “These can register bumps during sudden suspension compression and rebound at the front axle, as well as at the rear axle with a certain time delay,” according to the company. 

This data can be collected anonymously from vehicles whose owners have opted into data sharing via the “Mercedes me” app.

A similar algorithm can identify when the suspension is impacted legitimately – by speed bumps – and further analysis is carried out in Mercedes’ cloud, which takes vehicle type, wheel spin and damper level into consideration. 

Then, data is anonymized, aggregated and analyzed to identify patterns and hot spots of uneven roads, with Boston’s Analytics Team evaluating the effectiveness of Mercedes’ technology by comparing surface damage analytics to existing data and carrying out on-street inspections. 

“This partnership with the city of Boston aims to offer a deeper understanding of the infrastructure in which vehicles operate by securely gathering, processing and visualizing anonymized vehicle data,” said Dimitris Psillakis, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA.

“The sophisticated systems in our vehicles can provide valuable insights regarding what is happening along roadways. These data can help effectively and efficiently improve the condition of infrastructure to make roads safer and more enjoyable for everyone to navigate.” 

The initiative will be the first time Mercedes has used this capability for the benefit of infrastructure in the United States. The tech was introduced in 2021, but until now it has been used to provide other Mercedes with advanced warnings of potholes via vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication.

Boston has previously used other connected solutions to identify problematic roads. 

One system, called Street Bump, used accelerometers and GPS in smartphones to flag up roadway defects. It found the biggest issues in Boston’s roads at that time were caused by utility covers that had slightly sunk or shifted over time. 

The city currently relies on the 311 phone line for residents to report bad road surfaces.

“It is well known that not all neighborhoods and communities use Boston 311 at the same rate, yet 311 is a major driver of how some city resources are allocated,” said Stefanie Costa Leabo, Boston’s chief data officer.

“We are always eager to find ways to mitigate this bias in reporting and are excited to evaluate whether by testing new technologies or incorporating these new data we can identify cases that otherwise would have gone unreported and unaddressed in order to distribute city resources more equitably.”

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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