Roads have always been a part of our lives. As usual, we never really think much about it until we hit a pothole or come across an unbearably rough stretch of road.
In the early 1980s the highway engineering community identified road roughness as the primary indicator of the utility for a highway network to road users. This is because the roughness of the road surface affects the ride quality and vehicle operating costs. Rough surfaces also considerably impacts vehicle speed, fuel consumption, tire wear and increases road surface maintenance costs.
Like street lights, governments around the world spend a considerable amount to maintain public roads. If you are a tax-payer, it is your right to have well-maintained roads and you can provide feedback to your respective authorities otherwise. It is also our right to be taxed so we might as well make full use of our tax-paying priviledge.
Generally, governments engage term contractors to maintain roads. One of their activities is to ensure our ride quality and to report back roughness conditions. How does this all work in real life?
Road roughness measurements are usually carried out in the wee hours of the morning with vehicles that are equipped with massive computational horsepower, i.e., expensive. These horses are used for laser profilometers and a whole bunch of other power hungry devices. Measurements are done for each and every lane. To provide some perspective in terms of how much work this entails, Singapore has 9,233 lane-kilometers as at 2014 (source: Land Transport Authority of Singapore, “Road Length In Lane-Kilometer”). That is equivalent to driving from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur 26 times.