A massive pothole behind Campus Square in Auckland
A massive pothole behind Campus Square in Auckland Park in 2009, allegedly caused by rain. (Gallo Images)
  • The City of Johannesburg is due to fix potholes in partnership with two insurance companies, Dialdirect Insurance and Discovery Insure.
  • Busy roads will get priority, and road users have been promised an app they can use to report potholes.
  • But a big dataset will also be used to map problem areas.
  • That data will come from the telematics units they have attached to customer cars, say the insurance companies.
  • Normally used to track how the car is driven, the snitch units can also infer road conditions.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Snitch units attached to cars will be helping fix potholes in Johannesburg, say the city and two insurance companies, as part of a new partnership.

The City of Johannesburg, Dialdirect Insurance, and Discovery Insure on Friday announced the new Pothole Patrol initiative, which is due to start filling holes on 3 May.

The Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) periodically declares "war" on potholes, and this month said it had fixed nearly 100,000 holes over a three-month period. But especially after heavy rains, it is evident that the war is lost, and residents sometimes take it upon themselves to keep their roads usable.

This time, things are supposed to be different.

“We have no doubt that this joint initiative with private sector support is the boost we need to fix road infrastructure in the city," said Johannesburg mayor Geoff Makhubo in a statement. "We are confident that the launch of this initiative is a game-changer in resolving the scourge of potholes on our roads."

The Pothole Patrols will seek out potholes on the busiest, most high-impact roads, and fix those. Road users have also been promised a smartphone app they will be able to use to report pothole locations.

But the two insurance companies will bring their "significant data about road conditions" to the table too.

Both Dialdirect Insurance and Discovery Insure offer insurance packages that use snitch units, which monitor how cars are driven and report back to the companies, which can calculate risk and adjust premiums accordingly.

While the data collected is about how vehicles are driven, it can also be used to infer road conditions, the companies said.

Such data would relate to the roads used by their customers, though the companies said fixing potholes would reduce accident risks for both the insured and uninsured.

Makhubo was careful to stress that potholes would not disappear overnight. Due to a backlog "created over time through various reasons including an increase in road traffic and worsening weather conditions", he said, "it may take time for a logged pothole to be repaired."

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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