You’re driving down the highway on a section of fresh pavement, and what a difference that new asphalt makes! You can feel your car is handling better, and the ride is smoother. But do you know how much smoother?
We do, because we use a machine called a high-speed inertial profiler to calculate smoothness. And these machines are just as impressive as they sound. They mount directly onto a vehicle. They’re so great they don’t even need to be in contact with the road – they use an accelerometer, a range measuring laser and a distance meter to collect data and calculate the road’s smoothness.
Until recently, figuring out a road’s smoothness meant someone actually had to walk with the machine doing the measuring. And because someone was walking in the vehicle lane, it had to be closed to traffic. That also meant traffic control crews needed to be hired, and travel delays were inevitable. It was a long, slow process.
Now, with the new high-speed inertial profilers, a technician can gauge the road, by driving their vehicle at regular speed, eliminating impacts to other traffic. This greatly reduces testing time and allows for multiple passes, increasing the consistency and reliability of the data.
The readings we take are based on the International Roughness Index, used worldwide to gauge if and when road repairs or maintenance are required. Pavement roughness is defined as irregularities in the pavement surface that adversely affect the ride quality of a vehicle (and thus the user). Roughness can also increase travel time, fuel consumption and vehicle maintenance costs. Basically, we’re measuring the effects of the road on an average vehicle’s suspension. A road that’s too rough has to be fixed to meet specifications for a safe, smooth ride.
Improving measurements for smoothness is another example of how technology is changing highway maintenance for the better. And it shows we’re not just focused on making our roads faster and smoother – we’re doing the same for our business.