CSIRO’s RoadCrack imaging technology automates the task of surveying the nation’s roads with a capacity to detect cracks one millimetre wide from beneath the chassis of a moving vehicle. Developed by CSIRO for the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA), RoadCrack is a mobile camera and image-processing tool that detects, classifies and reports on cracking in road pavement.
RoadCrack is the first system in the world to achieve the RTA’s standards for an automated, objective and accurate crack detection system. RoadCrack combines high-speed image capture, real-time image analysis and processing, high-speed computing, automation and systems control. Its data acquisition module is mounted under a vehicle travelling at speeds up to 105 kilometres per hour. No other known road crack detection system delivers high-speed and real-time pavement assessment for such small cracks.
Rapid and safe assessment of road condition leads to improved asset management, lower transport fuel costs, reduced travel times and lower pollution. Australia’s roads will be safer and sounder thanks to RoadCrack. The RoadCrack research team were awarded a CSIRO Medal for Research Achievement in 1999.
The success of the RoadCrack project can be clearly attributed to the close liaison between the CSIRO researchers, the RTA and industry users.
The resources of the two organisations, CSIRO and the RTA, were brought together to fulfil the research aims of the team. For example, RTA technology had already put into operation equipment to determine pavement strength and skid resistance, while CSIRO brought expertise in imaging, optics, mechanics, electronics, mathematics and information sciences to the task. During the course of the project the team liaised closely with, and briefed, the leading road research groups, such as Austroads, to ensure the project direction and technology was relevant to and meeting the needs of the road industry.
The collaboration between the RTA and CSIRO to develop enabling vision based technologies for road transport has spanned thirteen years and has been most successful. The enabling technologies have been recognised internationally. In 1994 an international patent was lodged to protect the Safe-T-CamTM technology, a high speed imaging enabling technology development that led on to the RoadCrack technology development. Since then, the Safe-T-CamTM system and its novel technology has received acclaim for its innovation and successful implementation as a ‘world first’ at the 26th ISATA (International Symposium for Automobile Technology and Automation) Symposium in Aachen, Germany and won the ‘HONDA AWARD’ for the best technology presentation and audience response. In 1996 the team was awarded the ‘ROLLS ROYCE – QANTAS award’ for Engineering Excellence and the well regarded University of Sydney’s Warren Centre Medal for innovation. In 1998 an international patent was lodged to protect the RoadCrack technology. At the Australasian Transport 98 Conference, Sydney December 1998, the RoadCrack team was awarded the prestigious ARRB Transport Research Director’s prize for ‘Application of Research into Practice’. The significance of the technology to the industry was acknowledged at this major road transport conference in Australia. Following this in 1999 the RoadCrack Team was awarded the:
- Institution of Engineers Australia Engineering Excellence Award, 1999, Institution of Engineers, Sydney Division Engineering Excellence Award for Engineering R&D
- Institution of Engineers, Sydney Division Engineering Excellence Award Special Commendation for Asset Management
- Australian Institution of Engineers National Engineering Excellence Awards, AusIndustry Award for Innovation
- CSIRO Medal for Outstanding Research Achievement.
CSIRO researchers built on their technological capacity and relationship with the RTA. The high speed vision technologies developed by the team has driven world development of camera and vision systems and associated ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems) projects. Other developers are attempting to match the pioneering work undertaken by the team in image acquisition systems, high resolution fast image capture coupled with high speed image processing and hardware architectures. The ability of CSIRO researchers to harness these concepts was the catalyst for the RTA to have the confidence to invest in CSIRO to deliver a solution for detection and classification of pavement cracks from a vehicle travelling at 100 km per hour.
The CSIRO team worked as a closely-integrated and highly innovative group alongside collaborators, the RTA. The RoadCrack project collaboration was carried out over all stages of the research: feasibility study; technology review; demonstration prototype; field trials; prototype design; business development and review; prototype development and commissioning; field performance and acceptance; multi-channel implementation; field survey evaluation; consultant strategy report; technology transfer and support.
The CSIRO research and development team
Dr Mark Berman
Mark joined the RoadCrack team at the prototype development stage, bringing considerable expertise in the development of algorithms. He has led the image processing team in detecting and classifying road cracking data and developing statistical techniques for accurate data reporting.
Mr Michael Best
Also joining the RoadCrack team at the prototype development stage, Michael has been responsible for the system integration of the mechanical, electrical and electronic elements of the project. He has played a key role in field testing of the system.
Dr Edmond Breen
Ed has worked on the RoadCrack crack detection and classification algorithms, developing a filter for the separation of texture and cracking information. This filter has been essential in producing a robust system able to detect all types of paved surfaces.
Dr Michael Buckley
Michael has played a key role in the RoadCrack development, testing and implementation of algorithms and software for the system. He has developed techniques to ensure accuracy in reporting of crack type and severity and has been instrumental in acceptance of the system by industry, a role currently ongoing.
Dr Paul Dunn
Paul participated in the design of the RoadCrack computing architecture and contributed to the technology’s capacity for parallel real-time processing of an image data stream.
Mr Chris Freund
Chris has made significant contributions to the mechanical design of the prototype reflectors, and to the fit-out of the RTA RoadCrack vehicle used in the initial feasibility trials.
Dr Jim Gardner
Involved in the RoadCrack project since its prototype stage, Jim has been responsible for the design and implementation of the illumination system. He has been conscientious in seeing the technology right through its design, testing and acceptance stages.
Dr Ronald Jones
Drawing on his expertise in algorithms, Ronald’s research focus has been in crack detection and classification. He has been responsible for the optimisation of a code to enable real-time processing of data.
Dr Patrick Kearney
Patrick joined the team at the technology review stage to develop the high-speed data processing architecture. He has overseen the design, development and implementation of the system hardware architecture. He has been instrumental in the technology’s capacity for parallel real-time processing of an image data stream and has contributed to the design of the camera control system.
Mr Ian Macintyre
As project manager from its inception, Ian has overseen the evolution of RoadCrack from concept through to commercial exploitation. Ian was involved in assessing the state of crack detection technology as a foundation for the research to be undertaken. He has been involved in all aspects of the project’s development, contributing technically to the sensing and high speed imaging science technology developed for RoadCrack.
Mr Daniel Moore
Daniel’s strength lies in the design and integration of systems of software. Joining the team at the prototype development stage, he was a key player in field testing and implementation. He utilised the entire hardware and software related to image processing, integrating and optimising it to effect the real-time acquisition, processing and reporting of data.
Dr Bob Oreb
Involved in the project in the early stage of technology review, Bob assessed the current state of optics technology used in road crack detection, and contibuted to future research to be undertaken. He has been instrumental in testing the optical technology feasibility and design.
Dr Chris Walsh
Chris has been a significant contributor from the earliest concept stage through to the prototype development stage. His strength lies in optical systems design and review of the systems technology, leading to a significant contribution in the feasibility study and management of the optical aspects of the project in its vital early stages.