Trip around Banbury with Mr Pothole and Stan the AI app results in tally of nearly 1,500 road defects

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A trip around Banbury with Mr Pothole and a groundbreaking AI app has resulted in 1,500 of significant road defects.

The Banbury Guardian accompanied Mark Morrell – aka Mr Pothole – on a route around Banbury and out into the countryside to test Stan – an app that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to film, isolate and plot different defects, from deep potholes to ‘alligator’ cracking and surface failure. Stan stands for Safer Travel Around Neighbourhoods.

Anyone can install the app to film from their windscreen, to report potholes to highways authorities and to support compensation claims.

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We set off from Banbury Cross Retail Park and travelled 55 kilometres on a route that included Longelands Way, Sussex Drive, Bretch Hill, Edmunds Road, Easington Road, Chatsworth Drive, Middleton Road, North Bar, Broughton Road, North Newington, Shutford, Shenington, Hanwell and back to the retail park.

Stan the AI app picks up and highlights defects in the awful road surface at Ferndale Road, BanburyStan the AI app picks up and highlights defects in the awful road surface at Ferndale Road, Banbury
Stan the AI app picks up and highlights defects in the awful road surface at Ferndale Road, Banbury

Stan the app took 5,294 images over 85 road names and 1645 significant points needing repair or resurfacing.

A full inspection would reveal the extent of the wholescale neglect of our roads, which motorists have to navigate daily.

The most common defects were: Cracking - 595 instances; Joint Failure - 590 instances; Minor Potholes - 191 instances; Surface Failure - 119 instances; Major Potholes - 114 instances; Alligator Cracking - 29 instances and Pooling - 7 instances.

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The photos taken from Stan show how the app encircles different defects using a colour code.

Mr Pothole - aka Mark Morrell - with his phone equipped with Stan, an artificial intelligence app that detects road defectsMr Pothole - aka Mark Morrell - with his phone equipped with Stan, an artificial intelligence app that detects road defects
Mr Pothole - aka Mark Morrell - with his phone equipped with Stan, an artificial intelligence app that detects road defects

"'It’s reading the road far better than a manual inspector can,” said Mr Pothole, the national expert on potholes who has been increasingly in demand by news media reporting on the state of England’s crumbling roads.

“At the moment councils are saying they are fixing potholes and defects but using Stan, the public can share reports with the councils which will have been informed and have no excuses not to repair them.

“The designers of Stan are hoping to get councils to take it on board, rather than sending out staff to every reported defect. This won't miss a defect – it records it, stamps and dates when the survey is started and stopped. Roads are being monitored and it provides the evidence.

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"The more people using it, the sooner the whole country’s roads will be surveyed.”

The 55k route taken by reporter Roseanne Edwards and Mr Pothole to demonstrate use of the Stan AI appThe 55k route taken by reporter Roseanne Edwards and Mr Pothole to demonstrate use of the Stan AI app
The 55k route taken by reporter Roseanne Edwards and Mr Pothole to demonstrate use of the Stan AI app

Mr Pothole, who lives in Brackley, believes AI is going to cause councils massive problems because they are not controlling this accurate collection of data.

The drive with Mr Pothole was a sobering reminder of how appalling road surfaces are in the vast majority of Banburyshire roads - sometimes even worse in rural areas where roads may not be edged and large, heavy farm traffic damages old road structures that have not been maintained for over a decade.

Stan’s digital marketer, Lydia Robinson said: “Stan stands for 'Safer Travel Around Neighbourhoods'. Our mission is 'we're on a journey to create Safer Travel Around Neighbourhoods and improve the roads we live in. You report the problems, Stan drives the change. With Stan, every pothole you spot and report adds to a bigger voice. We're pooling all your reports to show road owners just how much needs fixing. Together, we're a louder, stronger force for sorting out our roads’.”

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The Stan team manages the data collected and is adding each report to their map of the country.

The Stan app which used artificial intelligence to detect and assess road imperfectionsThe Stan app which used artificial intelligence to detect and assess road imperfections
The Stan app which used artificial intelligence to detect and assess road imperfections

"We are committed to creating a compelling narrative around various metrics, such as the number of potholes, best and worst roads, potholes per kilometre, largest pothole and even pothole prediction,” said Stan’s Mike Mockford.

“We are offering this public reporting technology and platform to local authorities for free. Generally, local authorities are hesitant to embrace innovation and are often reluctant to acknowledge the extent of the pothole problem due to liability concerns (section 58).

“Local authorities have a tough job with limited budgets, challenging weather conditions and frustrated residents. It's important to recognise their difficult position.

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“It's clear our roads are in poor condition. Councils need to move away from denial and start trying innovative solutions. Without change, the situation will remain the same.

“Excuses are no longer valid. A decade ago, it might have been impossible for a highways authority to monitor their entire network effectively. However, with AI technology like Stan, one Oxford highways inspector could survey the entire network once a month, complete with images. Imagine that—one staff member could survey the network 12 times a year.”

Mr Mockford said it was wrong to think of AI as ‘the enemy’.

A Stan image which picks out different road defects in different colours - here in Chatsworth Drive, BanburyA Stan image which picks out different road defects in different colours - here in Chatsworth Drive, Banbury
A Stan image which picks out different road defects in different colours - here in Chatsworth Drive, Banbury

“AI can actually help staff become more efficient. It can reduce the time spent on redundant tasks like reviewing duplicate defects, responding to public emails, measuring potholes and searching for potholes. Stan can handle these tasks, potentially saving teams thousands of hours annually, allowing them to focus on fixing potholes.

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“AI can collect data at an unprecedented scale. With this data, we can better understand the worst-performing roads by analysing degradation over time and predicting where defects will occur.”

Mr Pothole’s campaigning has resulted in millions of pounds worth of road resurfacing being carried out. He has issued legal notices to highways authorities to get roads that are out of repair resurfaced.

He has helped thousands of people with pothole reports and has reported thousands himself. He’s helped people with claims for compensation.

He launched National Pothole Day 11 years ago – a movement that has been adopted all over the country.

To download Stan go to www.stantheapp.com or look on the Apple and Google Play stores

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