Navigating and riding through potholes, cracks, and rough patches is very common for us. It has become so common for us that most of us don’t realize that this is a problem and fixing it either feels like a privilege or we know that these roads are definitely going to be in the same condition sometime soon.
Road Athena is an Indian startup that is using artificial intelligence to identify potholes and cracks and make our roads smooth. Team Sociobits connected with the co-founder of Road Athena, Prerna Kalra to know more about the startup:
Team Sociobits: How did you come up with the name Road Athena?
Prerna Kalra: I have to say that it was very difficult to arrive at the name Road Athena. We were working on this project and we thought that we should have a Trade Mark for it. So, the whole team started brainstorming names and to our surprise, we found that most names were already taken. We might have tried EVERY permutation and combination and we arrived at the same message, ‘this name is not available’; this went on for three days.
I was so frustrated by the end of the third day and I vividly remember sitting at my desk and saying ‘let’s just go with any name that is available and finalize it once and for all.’ Everyone sort of understood the frustration and we finally decided on Road Athena, which we got instantly and we didn’t waste a minute on getting it registered. We attribute our company no hold, go-getter, run past each obstacle.
Team Sociobits: Could you tell us more about Road Athena?
Co-Founder: Everyone uses the roadways for traveling to their jobs, schools, colleges, etc. and these roads have a lot of issues associated with them like potholes, cracks, patches, etc. and this is not just in India but these issues are spread globally. So, roads need to be monitored and maintained. At Road Athena, we are offering a solution that maintains and monitors these roads that are spread for kilometers and kilometers. We do this with the help of artificial intelligence as this is the future.
At Road Athena, we are offering a solution that maintains and monitors these roads that are spread for kilometers and kilometers. We do this with the help of artificial intelligence as this is the future.
Team Sociobits: In layman’s language, what are you offering through Road Athena?
Co-Founder: Let’s take an example. The other day I was traveling in a cab, and the cab driver skillfully navigated a pothole while saying, “When I was a kid, I used to always see this pothole. Now, I have kids and the pothole is still there.” So, I smiled. The solution we are offering at Road Athena is very simple. We have recordings of the surface of the roads. We process this data through our AI model, then we classify the potholes, patches, and cracks separately. Meaning, we geo-tag them, and there is a picture of them available with their location, after studying this, we categorize the roads in three colors: red, yellow, and green. This information is available on a dashboard to the person who is responsible for road maintenance. They will then assign these anomalies/ potholes to be fixed to respective people and after fixing it, these people click a picture of fixed potholes again. This is the complete end-to-end process that we are offering.
With this, the data that is given is very accurate as it contains the time stamp, the number of potholes that need to be fixed regardless of their size, and everything that is required so nobody can challenge it. If you don’t handle such situations proactively, the cost of repair can go 100 times as per the global studies done.
Team Sociobits: Could you also point out some of the challenges that you faced as a business?
Co-Founder: Starting off in 2019, we stopped working during the COVID-19 and picked up the threads after the COVID-19 pandemic. When we trained this model, we worked a lot in Mohali, Chandigarh. There we used to get a lot of false positives because of tree shadows, sunlight glare, low light during the night, absence of side bumps, no road boundaries, etc. The system detected footpaths as potholes and on top of this, stray animals used to create obstructions too. Finally, to overcome this, we trained our model in a way that our accuracy in the ambient condition is 98%.
When we trained this model, we worked a lot in Mohali, Chandigarh. There we used to get a lot of false positives because of tree shadows, sunlight glare, low light during the night, absence of side bumps, no road boundaries, etc. The system detected footpaths as potholes and on top of this, stray animals used to create obstructions too.
Team Sociobits: For a society where the problem of potholes is internalized, how are you helping people realize this is an issue?
Co-Founder: The issue of potholes is something that we definitely need to bear and avoid but the solution is not by turning your back. The solution lies in doing something about it and fixing it. The first step is to identify the problem and I think India is the country that I am super confident will be a front-runner in fixing it. The whole world is observing us and trying to replicate our solutions.
The complete AI-driven solution we call FACE it. i.e. our solution is faster, accurate, continuous, and definitely economic. This is something the whole world can watch.
Team Sociobits: Do you have any competitors?
Co-Founder: Yes, we do have competitors that include many top companies from multiple countries but most of them are using smartphones for recording. On the other hand, we are using dash cams for recording and this gives us an advantage because this is a dedicated recording device. The coverage of these cameras is almost double what mobile cameras capture and there is also geo stability to our images. These specifications make our solution more stable, standard, and definitely faster.
When we began processing our videos, it used to take around 5-6 minutes to process a 1-minute video but now it takes less than one minute to process a 1-minute video.
Team Sociobits: What are the future plans of Road Athena?
Co-Founder: I think that there is a lot of potential in our country and we feel honored to be the ones who are making a difference. We are the ones to start and we won’t stop because India has the second-largest road network. Besides that, we have filed a patent in India and now we have already filed in Canada and Australia since there is a lot of need and interest as well, our plan is to go global.
I think that there is a lot of potential in our country and we feel honored to be the ones who are making a difference. We are the ones to start and we won’t stop because India has the second-largest road network.
The company is identifying and lime-lighting the problem that all of us face almost every day. It is high time we address it and also work towards fixing it because sooner or later there is no turning blind eye to the problem and all of us must get pothole-free roads as a fundamental right.