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Researchers Are Developing Pothole-Repairing Drones

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Anyone who’s had to navigate around potholes knows how inefficient humans can be at fixing infrastructure—which is why one group of researchers at the UK's University of Leeds is now looking into enlisting fleets of drones to solve our repair woes.

The university is teaming up with the city of Leeds to develop fleets of drones designed to recognize and fix basic infrastructure issues. The key advantage the drones will have over human workers will be their ability to discreetly perform repairs in less-accessible areas. “Our robots will undertake precision repairs and avoid the need for large construction vehicles in the heart of our cities,” the university’s director of National Facility for Innovative Robotic Systems Rob Richardson told Popular Science.

The team will focus on developing three different types of repair drones. In addition to a watchful drone that can coast along the streets, identifying, repairing, and preventing potholes, they will also be working on a model that surveys and fixes damage to sewers and utility pipes, and a drone that can “perch” like a bird and fix hard-to-reach places. The team has just been awarded a grant of £4.2 million ($6.5 million USD) to begin research on the project, so there’s no saying when these fleets of repair drones will be ready to patrol the roads. For now, we’ll have to continue relying on passive-aggressive graffiti to get our potholes filled. 

[h/t: Popular Science]

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Is This Route in North Dakota the Longest Straight Road in America?
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When planning a road trip, you might scope out the route with the most roadside attractions or the prettiest scenery—or, if you're interested in activating cruise control and giving your feet a break, you might look for something straight. According to Ken Jennings, writing for Condé Nast Traveler, North Dakota claims to be home to the longest straight road in the country.

State Highway 46 covers 124 miles of Midwestern prairie between the communities of Streeter and Lithia. A quick glance at a map suggests that the road does unfold in a straight line as advertised, but closer examination reveals that its status is more complicated than North Dakota would like to admit. There are places where highway 46 diverges off its narrow path slightly, like the spot where it runs over the Sheyenne River, for example. If you're sticking to the strictest definition of the word "straight," 40 unbroken miles of the highway is the longest stretch that qualifies.

Forty miles of driving in the same exact direction is impressive, but for an even smoother ride you'll need to travel west to Utah. There you'll find a 30-mile section of Interstate 80 that crosses the Bonneville Salt Flats. Not only is this route straight, it also falls along one of the flattest spots in the country.

Of course, not every road tripper is looking for the route that takes the least effort to drive. Roads with insane hairpin turns built in treacherous locations aren't hard to find if you know where to look.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

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Micah Bochart, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
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The Loneliest Road in America Is This Arctic Supply Route in Alaska
Micah Bochart, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Micah Bochart, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Sick of traffic? Try heading for Alaska’s Dalton Highway, considered the least-traveled road in the United States, CityLab reports. The 414-mile highway, traversed largely by a handful of truckers and passing through only a few small towns, sees the fewest cars per year of any road in the U.S., according to America’s Quietest Routes, an interactive website made by Geotab, a company that helps optimize truck fleet routes.

To create the site, Geotab used data from the Highway Performance Monitoring System’s 2015 average traffic statistics. Though the Nevada stretch of U.S. 50 is sometimes called the “Loneliest Road in America,” the numbers show you’d be much lonelier driving down the Dalton Highway, also known as State Route 11. The route, which runs along the Trans-Alaska Pipeline north-south between Fairbanks and the remote Arctic town of Deadhorse, saw an average of 196 vehicles a day over the course of 2015—one for every two miles of road. Many of those vehicles are trucks carrying vital supplies to the oil fields of the Arctic.

The highway has been featured on the History Channel reality show Ice Road Truckers and is considered one of the most dangerous routes to drive in the world. There is a 240-mile stretch that features zero services, and it’s full of steep grades, avalanche-prone areas, and the slow-moving landslides known as frozen debris lobes. Despite the dangers, it’s a picturesque route, one with views that writers regularly call “Tolkienesque.”

One thing’s for sure—you probably don’t want to drive it on your own.

[h/t CityLab]

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