The Oregon City Public Works department has enlisted the help from a high-tech ally to help in the ongoing battle with potholes: artificial intelligence. And it’s the only community in the state currently taking advantage of the technology.
Called CityRover, the Public Works department has been testing the AI device to help identify and mark the location of potholes. The device works by continually scanning the road ahead while in a City vehicle, in this case, the street sweeper. It then marks spots it identifies as a pothole and relays the data to a database accessed by the City. Officials say it has been an incredibly helpful tool.
“The street sweeper drives every street in Oregon City several times a year,” said Jayson Thornberg, Street Operations Manager for Oregon City. “With this tool out there every day all day looking for potholes, it helps the City find problem areas quickly.”
The data sent to staff includes precise mapping as well as images showing the issues the machine identified. That information is then reviewed by staff who determine if what the device marked is indeed a pothole, is it within the City's jurisdiction, and prioritize it into the team's workflow.
While the device may mark potholes on roads not controlled by the City, like 99E or HWY 213, road crews are only able to address the issues found on streets maintained by the City.
Crews perform maintenance on the roads, including potholes, year round. During the winter months however it can be difficult to keep up, as the harsh weather conditions can create them faster than they can be repaired.
Potholes form when water seeps into cracks in the road and then freezes. When the water freezes it expands, widening the cracks. High traffic levels combined with frequent weather swings can make a pothole appear seemingly overnight.
“Weather like we’ve seen this past winter is really hard on roads,” said Thornberg. “That constant ‘freeze-thaw’ cycle keeps our crews busy.”
Cold and wet weather also makes it more difficult to fix potholes, as the conditions render the repair methods less effective.
“Our crews take every opportunity to tackle problem spots when we can,” said Thornberg. “When things warm up and dry up, we’ll be able to get ahead of the problem.”
Staff are always on the lookout for new potholes, but they also rely on reports from residents to let them know of a new one. Community members can report potholes in Oregon City using the free MYOC App available on iTunes and Google Play, or by calling 971-204-4600.