ROVER
ROVER
Locally developed AI app sniffs out hundreds of potholes in Richmond Hill
Locally developed AI app sniffs out hundreds of potholes in Richmond Hill

Sheila Wang

Richmond Hill roads operator Len Giacalone sits in a vehicle with a Rover system mounted to the windshield. - City of Richmond Hill

Richmond Hill roads operator Len Giacalone sits in a vehicle with a Rover system mounted to the windshield. - City of Richmond Hill

Swift, smart, and state-of-the-art, a new smartphone-based artificial intelligence system offers a simple solution to help repair the pothole-ridden roads in Richmond Hill. The AI software, called Rover, automatically identified and analyzed a total of 542 potholes across the city during a 135-day pilot program that began in late 2019 and continued into 2020. Richmond Hill, the first municipality that has embraced the innovative technology, held a demonstration of the Rover system on Aug. 26 to showcase its capability of efficient pothole detection. In 2019, Richmond Hill repaired 1,078 potholes on 560 kilometres of local roads. Prior to Rover, the process required staff to visually observe and manually record it in the system.

Rover is an artificial intelligence software solution, developed by Richmond Hill-headquartered firm Visual Defence Inc., which uses a windshield-mounted smartphone camera scan and detects potholes in real-time. Using image detection and machine learning, Rover analyses captured video footage to identify potholes and other road defects and log physical addresses and GPS co-ordinates with 95 per cent accuracy. Roy Tal, Visual Defence’s chief technology officer, presented a “founding member” award to Mayor Dave Barrow at the demonstration to recognize the city’s leadership and collaboration in forming a workgroup to develop the innovative solution. “This product … is set to make a positive impact across Ontario and Canada,” Tal said.

Founded in 2000, Visual Defence, provides integrated security solutions to customers worldwide. Earlier in May, neighbouring city Markham also adopted the Rover system for pothole detection in a pilot program in 2020 to assist its road, park and trail maintenance services.

“This is exactly the type of project that we are pleased to support through Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network,” Vic Fedeli, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, said. The Rover pilot project received $100,000 funding from AVIN with industry investment of $148,902, according to the city’s release. Richmond Hill is expected to expand the Rover pilot project from potholes to other types of road condition-related problems, such as road damage, right of way obstruction and signage issues.

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