Faded markers. Buckling pavement. Debris. You don’t need to drive far to find signs of crumbling infrastructure, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon — the annual investment required to maintain roads, highways, and bridges in the U.S. is roughly $185 billion a year, according to the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission. The current annual spend is less than half that — about $68 billion.
Patchy roads pose a real challenge to self-driving cars, which often have trouble recognizing hazards like potholes. To help mitigate this situation, mobility software startup Renovo today announced it’s partnering with Swedish company NIRA Dynamics to bring road roughness monitoring to autonomous fleets of cars.
“NIRA Dynamics is a leading creator of road surface information technology, and is an important addition to the AWare ecosystem,” Renovo CEO and cofounder Chris Heiser said in a statement. “Not only does NIRA Dynamics RSI help automated driving systems perform better in adverse and emergency situations by having more precise grip information, but it also provides a new revenue stream to automated mobility fleet operators running AWare.”
NIRA’s Road Surface Information (RSI) software provides what product manager Gustav Kristiansson calls a “complete characterization” of real-time road conditions, including road grip and friction. Its machine learning algorithms ingest data from vehicle sensors, controllers, and camera feeds and aggregate it as map layers that developers can use and manipulate.
Self-driving car makers aren’t the only ones that stand to benefit. RSI also supplies road contractors with access to its infrastructural data pipeline, helping them prioritize areas in need of maintenance and economize supplies like road salt. The company is already working with authorities in Sweden, and in February it partnered with the Norwegian Public Roads Administration to provide 12-hour winter road condition forecasts.
“We share Renovo’s vision of an open, interoperable, on-demand ecosystem where best-in-class technologies like NIRA Dynamics RSI are combined to bring about automated mobility safely, quickly, and economically,” Kristiansson said. “We are excited for NIRA Dynamics RSI to operate in the AWare ecosystem, helping to make automated vehicles safer by providing detailed grip data and generating revenue for fleet operators.”
NIRA’s RSI will join Renovo’s AWare OS, licensable middleware designed for level 4 autonomous cars (vehicles that can operate without human oversight on certain roads or in specific geographic areas). The data analytics and safety systems platform integrates with products from Samsung, Verizon, Velodyne, Parsons, Phantom Auto, Metamoto, Bestmile, and others and boasts features like teleoperation, mapping, fleet management, and data services.
Autonomous taxi startup Voyage this year announced a long-term strategic collaboration with Renovo that will see its fleet of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans outfitted with AWare OS.