Ringway Hertfordshire is using AI to tackle COVID-19 social distancing challenges
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been used by the Ringway Hertfordshire team during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow essential highways maintenance checks to safely continue.
Ringway’s Hertfordshire team, in partnership with Vaisala and Hertfordshire County Council, started a trial in February to determine if AI could successfully be used on the county’s highways to record road defects. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated through the UK in March, the Hertfordshire team, led by Divisional Manager, Kevin Carrol, and Design Services Manager, Rob Payne, realised that the technology could be of significant help in tackling some of the challenges they were facing with social distancing. As a result, and in conjunction with Hertfordshire County Council, they made the decision to accelerate the trial.
Prior to the trial, road inspections were a two-person task, consisting of a driver and inspector who records road defects on a tablet, based on visual observation. Due to the introduction of COVID-19 social distancing measures, Ringway were no longer able to complete this essential activity.
The Vaisala RoadAI technology requires only one member of the highways team to inspect the designated route. In place of the second team member, it uses video recording technology to capture and transmit footage, including individual network defects, to a Vaisala cloud system for automated analysis.
Following the data analysis, the footage is available for a member of the Ringway team to review and instruct any follow up actions. Following a successful trial, and with agreement from Hertfordshire County Council, Ringway is now able to move to single person inspections for the duration of the current working restrictions.
Kevin Carrol, Ringway Hertfordshire Divisional Manager, said: “The safety of our people is paramount, and by using this technology we are able to ensure they are working in a safe environment. Secondly, it allows us to continue with essential road maintenance during lockdown and in line with government recommendations. Social distancing, and limitations with public transport, has meant that roads are now the principal choice on which people are travelling and we need to ensure they are safe for emergency services, key workers and the general public.”
As a result of the new technology, Ringway has been able to redeploy many drivers and inspectors, originally used for road inspections, to other essential highway maintenance activities.
Yogesh Patel, Process & Improvement Director at Ringway, said: “Social distancing requirements have brought about new and unexpected challenges to us all. This is a brilliant example of where one of our teams has applied new technology to a conventional process and resolved a real and immediate problem with some excellent results.”
Cllr Phil Bibby, Cabinet Member for Highways at Hertfordshire County Council, said: “This technology is great news for drivers in Hertfordshire. We’re always trying to find new and better ways of doing things, and the COVID-19 restrictions have given us the impetus to take rapid leaps forward that might otherwise have taken months to implement. I’m really pleased that Ringway has been able to deploy this technology and continue with road inspections under difficult circumstances, while freeing up staff for essential maintenance work.”
Following the successful pilot, and implementation, of the RoadAI system in Hertfordshire, Ringway is discussing deploying the application to many other clients and contracts.