The American road system is rated by the the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) as a “D,” largely due, according to civil engineer Chris Sunde, “to the huge funding deficit on our infrastructure.”
He’s right — the ASCE’s Failure to Act report states that our surface transportation funding gap through 2025 is over $1 trillion.
Sunde began his career in California, spending five years setting up a small city’s comprehensive pavement management program. Pavement management requires a city official to inspect every mile of road to give it a rating from 0-100. Then, based on that data, they decide which roads will get a facelift.
“That’s not special to the city I used to work for in California; every city in the nation has this exact same problem. There’s not enough money to fund the maintenance of the roads,” says Sunde.
He left for Charlotte, NC to work in the private sector designing roads, but solving this problem kept nagging at him. That’s when he rounded up his co-founders, Kyle Raub, Robert Mion and Jim Rublee, and founded GoodRoads.
“We realized the funding is not there, but there are other issues from a technology and community standpoint in the road industry. We’re trying to tackle those two so then naturally we can address the funding deficit,” says CEO Sunde. The startup was named after the “Good Roads Campaign” launched in North Carolina in the early 1900s to fix roads in the new industrial, car-centric era.
GoodRoads makes the pavement manager’s job easier with a low-cost device powered by artificial intelligence. After affixing the device under the car’s front bumper, the pavement manager drives on each of their designated roads for the day. As they drive around, the device’s sensors are able to pick up imagery and measure road roughness, which can include road cracking, failures in the pavement, rotting, pot holes and utility trenches.
The device saves time, increases accuracy and is cost-efficient for small cities, says Sunde. The imagery and inspection data helps determine the road’s ratings and the pavement managers can make decisions on where to spend their budget through the dashboard’s map-based reports.
“The civil engineering industry is so slow-moving that often the research that was done was not getting to the front lines,” says Sunde. “We’re partnering with universities and researchers so they can access our data and then we can funnel any relevant findings back to our recommendations within the app to our clients.”
The GoodRoads team hopes the data will also help similarly-sized cities share effective solutions and results from experiments for others to learn. “When I was in California, I was very isolated and I couldn’t find resources about how the industry gets this done. In the customer discovery that we did, we found out I wasn’t alone,” says Sunde.
“Information and data sharing within our platform will help break down those communication barriers between pavement managers and create a national network.”
The bootstrapped startup is running a handful of pilots in small cities in North Carolina in partnership with city governments, with another major pilot kicking off soon. GoodRoads’ SaaS revenue model allows cities to pay per-device rental fees under licensing. The team is not looking for funding at this time.
“If you pick the wrong treatment for a road, you’re potentially wasting tens, if not hundreds of thousands, per year for paving the wrong road. Cities currently don’t have the proper tools to make better decisions,” says Sunde.