Local weather Change is Chargeable for a “Pothole Plague” – however Robots might Assist – Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

Apparently it’s the climate causing potholes, not slipshod, incompetent road maintenance, super heavy EVs, or people switching to large SUVs because of all the potholes.

Climate change is causing a pothole plague. Are robots and self-healing pavement the solution?

Mia Taylor 25th January 2024

Extreme heat waves, wildfires and flooding are among the most obvious impacts of the Earth’s changing climate.

But dire weather events are not the only way global warming is wreaking havoc worldwide. Climate change is also creating a pothole plague.

In 2023, there were nearly 630,000 reports of potholes in the UK, which marked a five-year high, according to data compiled by campaign groupRound Our Way. In the United States, meanwhile, about 44 million drivers reported damage to their vehicles from potholes in 2022, which was a massive 57% increase over 2021, according to AAA.

While ageing infrastructure and limited road maintenance budgets play a significant role in the problem, another culprit behind the marked proliferation of potholes is severe weather brought about by climate change, which is weakening roads.

“There are a number of issues caused by climate change that are impacting roads,” says Hassan Davani, Ph.D., an associate professor in San Diego State University’s Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering. “Excessive heat can ultimately cause buckling of the roads, where additional thermal stress to the pavement materials can lead to cracks and potholes. We’re also experiencing more extreme flooding events, which causes a higher velocity of stream flow over the roads, resulting in more severe erosion of the pavement.”

Among the intriguing innovations emerging is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and robots to address transportation infrastructure problems, including potholes.

Read more: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20240124-climate-change-is-causing-a-pothole-plague-are-robots-and-self-healing-pavement-the-solution

Other commenters paint a slightly different picture of the situation;

Pothole politics is paralysing Britain

The nation suffers from executive dysfunction


Recently, though, we’ve gained a new unit of stupid political measurement: the pothole. Labour councils could have filled 24,000 potholes with the money they spent on diversity and inclusion in a year, according to a press release from CCHQ this week.

The briefing has an unmistakable whiff of election messaging. It came on the heels of a renewed pledge by Rishi Sunak to tackle Britain’s increasingly potholed and unpassable roads, and suggests the Tories are jockeying for position as the party of people who live in the material world, as opposed to those Marie Antoinettes of moral abstraction and virtue-signalling on the Opposition bench.

But can they pull this off? I’m not convinced. During a recent campaign visit to Darlington, in which he promised to address Britain’s pothole-ridden roads, Sunak pointed out a particularly large offender to the national media. But even after becoming, however briefly, Britain’s most famous bit of missing tarmac, it took another two weeks before anyone came along to fix it.

Read more: https://unherd.com/2023/04/pothole-politics-is-paralysing-britain/

On balance I suggest government incompetence seems a more likely explanation than climate change. Perhaps if the government allocated more funds to fixing potholes, instead of blowing all their cash on green energy and white elephants like HS2, there might be fewer potholes.

Could robots help with road maintenance? Maybe – but given Britain’s dismal track record with government IT projects, I expect a robot road repair programme would be dogged by hilarious and excruciatingly inconvenient failures, like robots running off the road and filling holes in the wilderness, or filling all the drains because they mistook the drains for potholes. I imagine similar problems would occur with any government attempt to streamline resource allocation using AI technology.

In the meantime, my suggestion is if you haven’t already, consider purchasing a vehicle which can handle our degraded roads. Such vehicles are expensive to own in Britain, but repairing an axle broken by a degraded, poorly maintained road is also expensive. Such vehicles can also handle snow and ice much better than normal automobiles, when the government neglects to buy road salt for winter. If you install a bull bar, you are also much safer if you hit a large animal, like one of Britain’s out of control feral deer population. I’m not suggesting even a sturdy off-road vehicle would be guaranteed to survive a collision with a big buck, but driving a rugged vehicle has significantly reduced the risk of a feral animal encounter wrecking my vehicle or causing me injury.

Barely a day goes by I don’t encounter degraded road conditions which affirm my decision to purchase an off-road vehicle.

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