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18 June 2019

How artificial intelligence helps protect Japan’s road system from subsidence

Beneath Japan’s vast, complex (and often downright puzzling) road network runs an equally vast network of sewage and water pipes. But with much of this underground infrastructure laid in the post-war economic boom now old and decaying – as well as being subject to frequent earthquakes – subsidence and sinkholes on the surface are becoming a major source of disruption. In 2015, according to Japan’s ministry of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, road subsidence was identified at 3,300 locations around the country. In November 2016, to give just one example, a sinkhole that opened up in Fukuoka on the southern island of Kyushu blocked a major city centre intersection for days. Water from deteriorating pipes flowing into subway tunnels beneath the road was held to be the cause of the Fukuoka street collapse, and it is possible, indeed likely, that loss of life was averted only because it happened at 5.15am. But now new deep learning and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques are being applied to data generated by ...

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