Australian engineers say ‘intelligent compression’ reduces potholes

Had John Lennon calculated that there are 4,000 potholes in Blackburn, Lancashire, he might have dedicated an entire album to the conditions of Australia’s roads after months of rain and flooding.

According to Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, an estimated half of the country’s A$16 billion (US$10.73 billion) public roads budget is spent on maintenance and repairs.

State governments have invested more than A$5.5 billion (US$3.69 billion) and local councils have invested a further A$1.5 billion (US$1.01 billion), after recent heavy rains on the east coast. The numbers will undoubtedly inflate significantly.

Maintenance workers in New South Wales alone filled over 18,000 fissures, craters and cavities between February and November. Many of them had to be replenished as they were blocked one day and flooded the next.

Still, all is not lost.

Enter what a group of Australian engineers call “intelligent compaction” technology. This technology can be integrated into heavy rollers to assess the quality of road infrastructure construction in real time.

An innovative machine learning process developed at the University of Technology Sydney uses data from sensors attached to machines to reduce the likelihood of potholes.

Hopefully the result will be less maintenance, safer and more resilient highways and side streets.

Extreme winter conditions have highlighted the importance of road quality. Poor construction is responsible for the extensive surface damage and subsidence, says study leader Behzad Fatahi, his associate professor.

This not only causes tire punctures and structural damage to cars and trucks, but also increases the chances of a serious accident.

“We developed an advanced computer model that incorporated machine learning and big data from construction sites to accurately predict the stiffness of compacted soils in a fraction of a second so that roller operators could make adjustments. he explains.

“Like Goldilocks, the compression needs to be ‘just right’ to provide the right structural integrity and strength. ”

Roads are made up of three or more layers that are rolled and compacted. The subgrade is usually earth, followed by natural materials such as crushed stone, asphalt or concrete.

The changing nature of ground and moisture conditions can make it difficult to achieve the right balance.

“Excessive compression can degrade the material and change its composition, while under-compression can lead to uneven sedimentation,” says Fatahi.

“A well-compacted multi-layer roadbed provides a stable foundation and increases the road’s capacity to withstand heavy loads.”

By that, he means trucks weighing up to 40 tons that can easily expose cracks and weak spots in the asphalt.

The research team is now testing the technology on site for road, rail and dam construction projects.

* The 1967 Beatles hit “A Day in the Life” written by Lennon was partly inspired by a local newspaper article headlined “A Hole in Our Road”.



Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.