The design for a bus-size vehicle that would repair potholes on the fly at speeds up to 35 mph has received U.S. patent No. 5,746,539. Operated by only the driver, the machine would use a global positioning system to record exactly where and how bad each pothole is. The inventor, Leo M. Mara, of Livermore, CA, is a technician at Sandia National Laboratories, which supports the project. Mara calls his idea the Rapid Road Repair Vehicle. Scanners on the front bumper would detect anomalies on the road surface. High-pressure air would clean and vacuum the spots. On-board image processing would determine if an object is a hole, bump, manhole cover, or crack. If it's a pothole, a phalanx of nozzles would deliver fast-drying filling material to the proper spots. The mixture would be tamped into place, dusted with grit to provide traction, and vacuumed. Finally, another row of scanners would check the quality of the repair. Under ideal conditions, Mara claims, "the vehicle could possibly patch roads at up to 35 mph." Usually, however, he envisions it moving at 10 to 15 mph. "Even at 10 mph," Mara asks, "can you imagine patching 10 miles of road in an hour?" Phone Subra Subramanian at (925) 294-2311.
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