Roads of the future: Building and maintaining this critical asset: Michael Caltabiano ARRB

Michael Caltabiano is the Chief Executive Officer of ARRB, the preeminent road research organisation in Australia.  He has been a politician but he also has a degree and experience in engineering.

Whenever I have visited ARRB, Michael has always chatted while showing me around the laboratories.  We never sit in an office or meeting room.

I wanted to talk to someone in his organisation about what makes a good road and the technical reasons why there can be problems and how does that affect users.

I think his eyes lit up. This was a subject that he himself had a passion for and an extensive understanding of the issues so, consequently he was more than happy to have the chat.

Subjects he covers include:

  • Moving away from just technology to a bigger focus on consumer behaviour
  • Big data has to be about understanding behaviour change
  • Not just designing roads for 40 years but researching the “Perpetual Road” where the foundation stays for the foreseeable future but you may change the surface periodically.
  • Why urban roads are smooth (and expensive) but rural roads have coarser payments but are cheaper to build.
  • Concrete roads are now out of favour
  • The health industry has shown that it is usually better to identify if there is a problem before the external symptoms are very apparent.  Measuring the condition of the road is important before potholes develop. Use of lasers and other technologies to measure the condition of the road.
  • The use of digital mapping is a great way of combining data from a range of sources to better understand the complexity and interaction between different factors to identify the best solutions.
  • We need to have good data especially with high-powered analysis such as Artificial Intelligence.
  • From Sydney to the north there was, quite some years ago, what was once considered the longest crack in a road. Michael was there at the time.
  • ARRB has a great input to world best research and is contributing to international considerations of the world’s best practice.

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