Impact Story

Taking it to the streets

Finding a shortcut to better roads

The City of Helsingborg’s approximately 60 km of street network takes between 45 to 48 weeks to inventory completely. Practically, that means it’s only feasible every three to five years, with smaller, more urgent inventories filling in the gaps where possible. It’s time consuming, inefficient and costly: The traditional way of working costs taxpayers up to SEK10 million every five years, and generates “pavement needs” reports that are often out of date soon after the data is collected.

The question the city was facing: How to get more up-to-date, actionable information that would save time, money and hassle for employees, improve roadworks and availability for the public and potentially improve oversight of the street network and conditions?

Collaborative innovation to keep a city moving

Cross-collaborative innovation can literally transform cities. In this case, city engineers tasked with finding a smarter way to keep roads in shape worked with urban infrastructure digitalisers Univrses and private waste collection contractors NSR. Together, they evolved the existing waste collection truck fleet to become the eyes and brain of a city-wide road maintenance system that changes everything.

The solution is as simple as it is brilliant. Waste collection trucks are now equipped with mobile phones mounted in the windshield. The phone collects a continuous stream of data about the condition of the street being serviced, contributing to a database of real time road quality conditions. City teams can then use that up-to-the-minute, actionable intelligence for faster and more cost-effective maintenance planning. Being able to carry out maintenance measures tactically can make them easier and cheaper to implement. At the same time, it’s an effective strategy for extending the lifecycle of the street and postponing more complex work until it is really needed.

In the future, the technology could be adapted to collect more types of data, for instance on stormwater well performance, vegetation obstruction on sidewalks and footpaths, street cleanliness, signs in need of repair, and much more. The data collection could also be used to inform efficient route planning for the waste disposal trucks, or even as a route condition assessment and report tool for local search and rescue services.

Innovation starts at street level

For now, the collaboration’s success is as much of an eye-opener as the technology itself. It goes to show what’s possible when different actors across sectors and areas of expertise pool their efforts collaboratively. And its motivated actors within the respective organisations to appreciate the power of their accomplishment—and look forward to even bigger challenges and opportunities to address collectively.

At the same time, a full road network inventory that used to take up to five years is now 24x faster,and can be managed in just two weeks. City engineers only need to spend 50 hours per year assessing pavement needs, compared to the previous 900 hours. And the city is saving SEK millions. All practical benefits resulting from the collaborative impact innovation approach. And convincing support for the model’s potential impact in more cities around the world.

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