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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The poor state of infrastructure poses serious safety threats to drivers today and may delay the safe deployment of AVs. One-third of the 33,000 U.S. annual traffic-related deaths involve poor road conditions, with potholes alone causing $3 billion in vehicle damage per year.

The big picture: AV developers have focused on improving how their cars respond to pedestrians, bicyclists and other cars on the road, but they must also address the challenges presented by infrastructure. Using AI and advanced image stabilization, AV companies are building better tools to map and assess road conditions.

Where it stands: Companies and academic labs are working on technology for AVs to anticipate hazards on the road. If shared with city and state offices, the information these AI-powered tools generate can also be used to guide infrastructure repairs and investments.

  • RoadBotics, a company spun off from Carnegie Mellon University, combines AI and machine learning with machine vision adapted from smartphones to identify road infrastructure issues in real time. Detroit announced this month that it will use RoadBotics AI to assess its 2,600-mile road network.
  • Carnegie Mellon University has created LiveMap, which uses edge computing to analyze a video feed of the road and can detect and report on conditions.
  • Cornell University researchers used data from sensors and accelerometers combined with machine learning algorithms to detect and assess potentially damaging road conditions, including potholes.
  • TotalPave, a startup based in New Brunswick, Canada, has developed a Pavement Condition Index calculator that collects road conditions data in a mobile app.

What to watch: As digital infrastructure moves to 5G and computing power increases, machine learning will be more widely implemented on the road. But until then, municipalities can use these new technologies to make the roads safer for current traffic and future AV deployment.

Karen Lightman is executive director of Metro21: Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

Go deeper

54 mins ago - Health

U.S. ahead of pace on vaccines

A health care worker administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine in Ruleville, Mississippi. Photo: Rory Doyle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. is now vaccinating an average of 2 million people a day, up from 1.3 million in early February.

Why it matters: That puts us on track to hit President Biden's goal of 100 million doses a month ahead of schedule.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Harris breaks tie as Senate proceeds with lengthy debate on COVID relief bill

Photo: Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate on Thursday voted 51-50 — with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie — to proceed to debate on President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, likely setting up a final vote this weekend.

The state of play: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is forcing the Senate clerk to read the entire 628-page bill on the floor, a procedural move that will likely add 10 hours to the 20 hours already allotted for debate.

4 hours ago - World

Netanyahu campaigns against Biden's plan to save Iran deal

Netanyahu campaigns at a gym last month. Photo: Pool/AFP via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indirectly criticized the Biden administration for its intention to return to the Iran nuclear deal and told his supporters he was prepared to "stand against the entire world" to stop it.

Why it matters: This is a major change of tune for Netanyahu, who had been careful in his statements on the Iran deal and avoided publicly criticizing President Biden. The statement was part of Netanyahu's attempt to rally his base ahead of Israel's election on March 23.