UB computer scientists developing new technology to track and prevent potholes

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It may not look or feel like Spring, but one indication that Spring is here, is potholes.

It’s hard not to miss the many potholes across Western New York, but a new tiny computer, the size of a coin, could completely change the future of potholes.

University at Buffalo scientists have been working with researchers in China for the last two years to create self-powered wireless sensors.

The sensors will help us understand when a road surface is vulnerable and it will also give us traffic information we’ve never had before.

“It can monitor the condition of the road, like the road temperature, moisture level, pressure and stress. We can predict where those potholes will be and we can fix them or even prevent the happening of those potholes,” said UB computer scientist Wenyao Xu.

Xu developed the technology called ePave. It’s a sensor that would be embedded under the pavement, self powered from the pressure of cars and people. It would work similar to how sensors work at a traffic light.

Researchers say the technology could save cities and towns money and materials because they would be better able to respond to potholes and prevent them from growing worse.

The small, but mighty device can even help us understand future infrastructure problems and gather information from car accidents like speed, breaking and occurrence.

“Maybe we can do more optimization on road control like put more traffic lights or stop signs there to prevent the happening of those events,” said Xu.

The prototype is currently being tested on the roads in China, a joint project with UB and Chang’an University.

Once researchers find out how durable the device will be underground as road temperatures fluctuate, the next step is to deploy the sensors here at home.

One sensor would cover about 54 yards and each one would cost less than $50.

Xu expects the technology will take another three more years to materialize.

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