BALTIMORE, Md. — Every year, potholes cost American drivers billion of dollars in damages and repairs. However, new technology is hitting American roadways to help better detect potholes and it could save drivers from costly repairs.
Randy Shiflett, the interim superintendent for the Baltimore County Bureau of Highways, hears about potholes constantly from drivers.
"Every time there's a storm, any type of weather it's going to pop a pothole," he said.
But this county is deploying what could be a game-changer in curing America of its plague of potholes—it's a converted commercial van, outfitted with sophisticated new 3D laser technology. That can tell engineers the conditions roads are in down to the centimeter.
"It should get us out to the roads that need attention immediately," Shiflett said.
Baltimore County recently contracted the engineering consulting firm O'Connell & Lawrence Inc. They will spend the next 12 months surveying all 6,633 miles of roadway managed by the county, looking at cracks, bumps and any signs of wear. That data can then help create maps for road crews to use in determining where they need to focus maintenance work.
"It helps with finances. It makes you more financially responsible, as you have data-driven information that you can go back to and say 'this is why we paved this road," he added.
Potholes are more than just an annoyance. According to AAA, damage related to pothole repairs in 2021 cost American drivers $26.5 billion. The problem is so bad that 1 out of every 10 U.S. drivers reports dealing with pothole damage.
"It's a tremendous problem," said Tim Geary with a company called American Road Patch.
American Road Patch is also working to fix our country's pothole problem by deploying innovative new pothole repair techniques. The company is using new sealing methods over traditional asphalt repairs to make pavement repairs more permanent.
"Part of the problem is they're using old methods to fill they aren't updating as we go along," Geary said.