How to Achieve Pothole-Free Roads

Paved with fiber-reinforced asphalt mixture, the Republic of Korea’s Highway 38 is in satisfactory state after 4.5 years of operation. Photo credit: KICT.

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Paving roads with fiber-reinforced asphalt mixture and using a pothole detection technology can help keep roads safe and pothole free.


While the number of new roads that is being built in the Republic of Korea decreases, the total length of sections that requires maintenance and repair increases tremendously over time. From 90,000 in 2008, the number of recorded potholes went up to 210,000 in 2013. Potholes are road surface hollows formed gradually by traffic and/or weather. These pose risks to drivers and commuters. A total of 4,223 car accidents caused by potholes were recorded during that span. 

Existing asphalt pavement only lasts approximately 60% of their designed life cycle. The government of the Republic of Korea allocates a massive budget for road maintenance and repair every year.  Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology recognized the opportunities for a more economical and durable asphalt mixture and a more efficient means to survey road distresses. 

Using Fiber-Reinforced Asphalt Mixture

The reinforcing materials and the fiber-reinforced asphalt mixture in 3D. Photo credit: KICT.

The institute experimented on replacing some portion of natural aggregates and stone powder fillers with recycled plastic resin-coated and aggregated-type glass fibers to reinforce the asphalt mixture. The rod-type glass fibers manufactured through an injection process were also added to allow the bridging-effect in adjacent aggregates. Using these reinforcing materials increased the interlocking force between aggregates and enhanced the packaging and tensile stiffness of the asphalt mixture. The result is a roadway-paving material that is almost twice durable against plastic deformation, fatigue cracking, pothole damages, and the like than the conventional asphalt overlay pavement. This equals the superior performance of existing polymer-modified asphalts but at a low price. 

Moreover, the new mixture reduced the required cross-sectional thickness of pavement to up to 20 % and the frequency of road repair thus reducing both construction and maintenance costs. 

The Republic of Korea pioneered this technology and aimed to gain competitive advantage in the international high-performance asphalt mixture market.

Using Video-Based Pothole Detection System

The pothole detection device and auto-detection at work. Photo credit: KICT.

In the Republic of Korea, collecting pothole information is usually done manually by road-maintenance agencies. There are automatic detection systems available like vibration-based and laser scanning technologies but they are expensive and not highly accurate. 

The video-based pothole detection technology is a device similar to a black-box camera mounted on the front windshield of a vehicle. Powered by a specially designed algorithm, this technology is capable of quickly determining the pothole location and size over a wide area at a low cost. It can collect highly accurate road surface details and provide road management authorities with real-time information on road sections needing emergency repair or restoration.   

These two technologies can accelerate the decision-making of authorities regarding the accurate estimate of road repair effort needed. 

Pyeong Jun Yoo
Research Fellow, Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology

Pyeong Jun Yoo has been developing and implementing pavement design and management systems for roadways for 20 years. He earned his BSc and MSc in Civil Engineering from Konkuk University in Seoul and his PhD program in finite element analysis from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2007.

Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT)

The Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology contributes to the development of the Korean construction industry, improves quality of life standards, furthers national economic growth, and improves social welfare. It promotes original technology in the fields of land, infrastructure, and construction.

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