Artificial intelligence startup RoadBotics raises $3.9 million to revolutionize and transform management of roadways and other infrastructure
RoadBotics, an artificial intelligence startup that was spun out of the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute in 2016, has raised $3.9 million in seed funding to revolutionize the way engineering firms, local governments and municipalities manage and maintain roadways and other infrastructure. The latest round was led by Boston-based Hyperplane Venture Capital. RoadBotics is part of the growing ‘Urban Tech’ sector that is attracting significant venture funding. Along with Hyperplane Venture Capital, RoadBotics has received financing from several prominent urban tech investors, including Urban-Us, Urban-X, Radical Ventures, and Ekistic Ventures, as well as the Wharton Alumni Angels and Innovation Works.
Founded in 2016 by Christoph Mertz, Ph.D., Benjamin Schmidt, Ph.D., and Mark DeSantis, the Pittsburgh, PA-based RoadBotics is developer of advanced computer vision technology for inspecting roads and infrastructure. It uses deep learning to assess roadways for 78 cities, towns and counties across the US and Australia. The company emerged from the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in December 2016 and grew out of Carnegie Mellon’s extensive research in autonomous vehicles.
RoadBotics uses same technology that moves autonomous vehicles – deep learning-based image processing – to create a product that can be used to efficiently assess road quality. The company monitors and manages world’s roadways by identifying and rating a wide array of important roadway features and conditions, including cracks, potholes, signage and other characteristics. Its AI technology was developed at the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute with the explicit goal of providing efficient and cost-effective roadway transparency to those responsible for roadway infrastructure. Our technology turns any smartphone and car, truck or bike into a sophisticated, mobile sensor.
RoadBotics uses a proprietary app and standard smartphone, placed on the windshield of any vehicle, to collect roadway image data. The image data is uploaded to the RoadBotics platform where deep learning is applied to isolate the road from other objects in each image, assess the road condition, and automatically generate a condition rating for the road surface. This objective rating is based on the presence, type and density of the road surface features and distresses that pavement engineers are trained to identify when visually inspecting roads. Finally, RoadBotics renders the complete assessment on its interactive, online mapping platform called RoadWay.
Anyone can download our app to their smartphone and simply attach their phone to a dash mount, giving the phone’s camera a full view of the road ahead. The data is automatically uploaded to our AI-driven cloud platform to be analyzed. The video data, along with the smartphone’s other sensor capabilities, allow us to precisely calculate a wide variety of vital and established roadway metrics. The RoadBotics ‘red, yellow, green’ web accessible visualization map gives roadway managers a comprehensive and near real-time status of their roads, streets, bike paths, walkways and bridges.
“Continuously monitoring a road network is a hard job, particularly when they can stretch for thousands of miles. It is costly and time-intensive to put trained engineers out on the road to perform assessments,” said Schmidt, RoadBotics’ CTO. “Improving the quality of the world’s roads is one of the most viable ways to utilize automated, low-cost, high resolution inspection technology and RoadBotics is leading the way.”
Since securing their first customer in June 2017, RoadBotics has seen rapid growth in customers from local governments, counties and engineering firms. One such customer, the city of Savannah, is using RoadBotics as the foundation for their data-driven infrastructure strategy.
“RoadBotics will allow us to better assess the overall condition of city roadways and increase the accuracy of the data collected, ultimately enabling us to more effectively manage our infrastructure replacement,” said Heath Lloyd, Savannah’s Chief Infrastructure and Development Officer. “Our goal is to use our resources as efficiently as possible. RoadBotics helps us accomplish that by enhancing our ability to better plan and implement city-wide roadway replacement schedules.”
Across the world in Australia, RoadBotics is partnering with leading engineering firm Fulton Hogan to offer its cutting-edge technology across the South Pacific. RoadBotics has enabled Fulton Hogan to help their clients save time and resources, eliminating the need to send engineering crews out into the field for weeks at a time to visually inspect pavement. RoadBotics enables them to gather higher quality data in much less time.
“RoadBotics technology brings a whole new dimension to our road management services. We are thrilled to offer our customers RoadBotics because the objective data it provides impacts all parts of pavement management – from making smarter maintenance decisions to crafting more strategic long-term plans,” says Peter Rodrigues, Divisional Manager at Fulton Hogan. “Most importantly we see remarkable potential in RoadBotics technology to reshape the world of pavement management in the very near future – soon we hope to use RoadBotics not just to inspect roads, but to assess a variety of infrastructural assets.”
RoadBotics is continuing to develop its technology to meet the demands of its customers.
“Because of our success to date, customers are asking us to assess and rate a wide variety of other objects on or along the roadway such as guard rails, signs and utility lines. The venture funding from Hyperplane and others is enabling us to expand our vision and meet the needs of our customers,” said DeSantis, RoadBotics’ CEO. “We’re very excited about the faith our venture partners have placed in us and looking forward to expanding the use of our technology and reaching new customers.”
“We’re committed to helping innovative companies use AI and machine learning to make a huge difference in addressing tough challenges in all facets of life. RoadBotics is exactly the kind of company we want to support,” said Jack Klinck, Managing Partner at Hyperplane Venture Capital.
Below is a video of Mark DeSantis, RoadBotics CEO, explaining how RoadBotics uses AI technology to monitor and manage world’s roadways in a cost effective and efficient manner.