AI-powered survey finds Philly roads rank best in the nation

Photograph of South Broad Street taken by an automobile-mounted camera driving north toward City Hall. (The Chamber of Commerce Foundation)

Photograph of South Broad Street taken by an automobile-mounted camera driving north toward City Hall. (The Chamber of Commerce Foundation)

Here’s a shocker: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation ranks Philadelphia number one in the nation for the condition of its roads.

You heard it right. Philly has the best roads out of the nation’s biggest cities. The catch: AI robots made the judgement.

Benjamin Schmidt of RoadBotics said the Chamber of Commerce study ranked roadway conditions in 20 cities using artificial intelligence to judge roughly 75 miles of streets in each of the cities. Cameras mounted on cars captured the road condition data while a computer evaluated it.

“It’s all very objective,” he said.

Schmidt said they sampled 72 miles of the 2,525 miles that encompass the city, traveling roads in the city’s Greater Center City core, crossing from the Art Museum area to Queen Village, Bella Vista to Francisville. (Map can be found here.)

The evaluation showed almost 40% of the roads were ranked in the best condition possible, 48% in the second-highest category, 10% earning a bronze and just a fraction scoring in the lowest rank.

If the camera-mounted cars had traveled outside of Center City, the data would have likely told a very different story. While many of the larger streets in the city’s inner-core have undergone repaving in the recent past, many neighborhoods struggle with potholes and substandard streets.

Schmidt said the data from Philadelphia could be used to guide spending and public dialogue.

He said some people probably won’t be able to believe the city’s score.

“You’ve probably had good drives through the city of Philadelphia where nothing happened; you didn’t get stuck in traffic; you didn’t see a pothole but those are not going to come to your mind about your experience,” he said. “What you will definitely remember is slamming into that pothole, that’s a selection bias.”

An eventual goal of using the technology is to mount it on police cars or trash trucks to get a complete picture of every mile of roadway in a given city.

The survey ranked Jacksonville, Florida second. New York City came in third and Los Angeles ranked 17.

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