February 26, 2010
PAVEMETRICS SYSTEMS INC.
FEATURE | Roadbuilding
Truck-mounted laser finds, maps and assesses road condition
A new tool to help engineers make decisions about resurfacing or replacing roads is coming to Ontario this summer.
It’s a laser device mounted on a van and capable of finding, mapping and assessing the severity of cracks, ruts and holes in the pavement and colour-coding them accordingly.
The tool was developed by the National Optics Institute of Canada (INO) with the co-operation of the Ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ).
Now the Laser Crack Measurement System, or LCMS, is being commercialized by Pavemetrics Systems Inc., an INO spin-off.
The system will help optimize maintenance, saving money in the long run, says John Laurent, vice-president for business development and chief technical officer.
The system is mounted atop a van, 2.2 metres above the roadway, and consists of two transverse three-dimensional laser profilers that take images up to four metres wide, about the width of a traffic lane.
One pulse, or measurement, is taken every millimetre of travel and sent to a computer inside the van travelling up to 100 km/h. The images are compressed so a kilometre takes up about 723 megabytes of computer memory.
He says there was some skepticism among engineers about the accuracy of the system, but since then the Georgia Institute of Technology has evaluated the system positively.
Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin was the first commercial customer for the laser system, after MTQ. It was followed recently by the Ministry of Transportation Ontario, which plans to use it this summer.
Laurent said pavement management systems contain a mass of data — how and when roads were built, design, life expectancy and maintenance record. “You scan a road once and compare it and to look at how the road evolves over time. So if you have, say, a 15 mm rut on one road and you see that the rut hasn’t moved in the last five years, well, probably you don’t need to do anything.
“But if you have no ruts one year, 5 mm ruts the second year and 15mm ruts the third year, probably by the fourth year you’re going to have big holes in the road.
It’s not only engineers who are interested in the data.
“In Quebec,” Laurent said, road owners “were able to use these (road) models to convince politicians to give them more money for road maintenance in the short term because it would save them a lot more in the medium and long term.”
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