Potholes are a perennial problem. They are dangerous to road users, and the damage they cause to vehicles can be hugely expensive. The cost of repairing them is also vast. But still they appear, and reappear, in countless places. So why do these pesky crevices pose such a difficult challenge? And is there any light at the end of this pothole-filled tunnel?
Potholes often begin as imperceptible microscopic cracks in the road surface. Bad weather, poor drainage and heavy traffic can all cause that surface to loosen and wear away. In 2017, more than two million potholes were repaired on UK roads, at a cost of about £120 million (about €135 million).
At the moment, where and when these microscopic cracks will appear is hard to determine. But, in the future, it is likely that high-precision measuring techniques will be able to predict the time and location that potholes will appear. To repair the road before potholes grow, machines will be installed into autonomous vehicles, cleaning out the damaged areas and filling them in again.