Cepton Technologies, a provider of smart lidar solutions, and Vortex IoT, a UK-based IoT solutions company, have combined their skills to turn UK buses into real-time road inspection tools – enabling a lidar-based vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) solution for urban asset management.

Vortex’s award-winning lidar-powered Continuous Urban Scanner System (CURBS) enables asset and infrastructure management by identifying certain situations such as pot-holes, surface damage and roadside defects in real time by using 5G wireless technology to transmit the data to road management teams.

This solution uses artificial intelligence and machine learning alongside Cepton’s Vista-P60 high-resolution lidar sensors to create a detailed map of the urban environment. This is done by retrofitting the CURBS product to vehicles to create a real-time 3D scanning and dynamic monitoring system. Mounted on public transportation, such as bus fleets, refuse collection trucks and mobile enforcement vehicles, the lidar-embedded CURBS product can pinpoint areas that may need repair to maintenance teams, allowing for the early identification of such issues.

CURBS streams the processed information over 5G networks. Crucially, this information helps to not only provide real-time insights to services such as road maintenance, but also to drive intelligent decisions with the goal of optimizing traffic management – such as enabling preventive measures in accident-prone areas and improving the efficiency of traffic. These anticipated improvements are intended to ultimately help drive down carbon emission while making cities safer and smarter.

A pilot for the solution is currently underway in the West Midlands in a UK Government-sponsored 5G program called “WM5G”, where Vortex has partnered with National Express and BT.

Vortex also has additional deployments scheduled with traffic enforcement and smart city management company, Marston Holdings. CURBS leverages a number of benefits through its use of Cepton’s Vista-P60 sensors. Firstly, the lidars perform with accuracy and resilience in a variety of weather and lighting conditions. In contrast, cameras need sufficient light to be effective and can be blinded by strong light. Because cameras provide only two-dimensional imaging typically with no accurate size and location data, they need additional computing resource to process the image to extract useful information, which might take up more bandwidth and lead to lag.

Secondly, lidar data is completely anonymized, protecting the privacy of citizens and eliminating the need for additional data management and security protocols. Lidar collects no biometric data, making individual features unidentifiable from lidar point cloud visualizations.

Finally, the Vista-P60 lidars, powered by Cepton’s patented Micro Motion Technology (MMT), are non-rotational, mirrorless and frictionless. This makes it possible for the sensor to deliver high performance while offering a low-power and compact solution to help drive down integration and maintenance costs. The scalability of the Vista-P60 lidars make them ideal for V2I smart city applications like CURBS.