The search for potholes on Lexington's streets is going high-tech.
City officials unveiled two "digital survey vehicles" Thursday that use lasers and cameras to measure the surface condition of road pavement, including potholes, cracks, roughness and rutting.
"If you see this thing coming down your streets, it's not Ghostbusters," Urban County Council member Bill Farmer said of the SUV, which looks like something out of the movie.
The city contracted with Applied Research Associates Inc. for $395,000 for the road-assessment project.
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The survey vehicles will be in Lexington for several weeks, covering 40 to 50 miles a day at normal traffic speeds.
"This project is just another example of the city using technology to make informed decisions and show citizens their tax dollars at work," Mayor Jim Gray said.
Six lasers line a front bumper attachment that can measure the change in road surface within a thousandth of an inch, about the thickness of a piece of paper.
A technician in the vehicle will monitor the data, and the company will use the information to rate each block or street on a scale of 0 to 100.
"The data collected will be good for up to three years and will help us determine the best way to fix each street — whether that's through crack sealant, microsurfacing or traditional mill and overlay — saving money in the long run," said David Holmes, the city's environmental quality and public works commissioner.
The previous system for assessing road conditions involved employees or interns walking down streets and assessing damage visually. That process was slow, subjective and sometimes dangerous.
The primary benefits of the digital survey vehicles are safety and the ability to receive concise, objective scientific data.
The city also will be able to rate 100 percent of the roads in Lexington instead of 50 percent, as it does now.
Another advantage is speed.
"This will do in a year's period of time what we were doing by visual inspection in two years' period of time," Farmer said.