Skoda Sort of Declares War on Potholes, Which Damage a Quarter of UK Cars

Many drivers still don’t understand the big deal with Big Data in the car industry. But sometimes things become clear, and suddenly in-car cloud services could save money or even lives. Skoda UK has an excellent example of how helpful Skoda Connect’s online services are when it comes to the ordinary, but very annoying potholes on British roads.
Potholes damage a quarter of UK car owners 6 photos
Photo: Skoda
Potholes damage a quarter of UK car ownersPotholes damage a quarter of UK car ownersPotholes damage a quarter of UK car ownersPotholes damage a quarter of UK car ownersPotholes damage a quarter of UK car owners
I remember a day many years ago when a friend asked for my help in the middle of the night. Because of a nasty pothole, his Volvo got both wheels on the right damaged. We had to figure out how to deal with two flat tires and only one spare wheel.

Of course, after draining the cursing dictionary and even inventing new insults aimed at the potholes’ responsible for the damage, we managed to find a platform to transport the car to service. So, I’m telling all the 27% of British motorists who were victims of potholes in 2022 a very sincere “I feel you, bro.”

How do I know this percentage? It turns out that Skoda UK conducted research in England. They found out that more than a quarter of the UK car owners have experienced close encounters between their cars and potholes in the roads.

Ok, I guess there’s no driver in the UK or Europe, or anywhere in the world who hasn’t ever hit a pothole. But this 27% from Skoda's research had the misfortune to damage their vehicles to some extent. Too bad Skoda didn’t reveal what the most common cursing was.

Potholes damage a quarter of UK car owners
Photo: Skoda
However, the data they gathered resulted in a ranking of the mechanical issues drivers had to deal with. Here are the Top 8 potholes’ damages and faults:

1. Tire puncture
2. Tracking misalignment
3. Cracked spring / broken shock absorber
4. Buckled / bent wheel
5. Damaged alloy wheel = Damaged exhaust / catalytic converter
6. Tire sidewall bulge
7. Broken power steering
8. Lost hubcap

By far, tire punctures were the most common issue, with 47% of all the problems. The tracking misalignment was second with 26% and the cracked springs were third with 22%. So, the first three issues accounted for 95% of all the problems.

Does it sound costly? It surely does. The research also found that the average cost for repairs stands at more than £200 (€227 or $244). But you can bet that repairing cracked springs or shock absorbers is more costly than that. The average value is relatively low because almost half of the issues were not-so-expensive-to-repair tire punctures.

Moreover, damaging the exhaust or catalytic converter and breaking the power steering is a little wasted fortune you wouldn’t expect as a result of a little pothole. Keep in mind that there are around 35 million drivers in the UK, and, according to Skoda research, 9 million of them have had bad experiences with potholes in 2022.

So the total cost of repairs because of potholes is estimated around the staggering amount of £1.8 billion (€2 billion or $2.2 billion). This is 20 times more than the money that was spent last year on filling the potholes, according to the 2023 ALARM survey.

It's not some kind of potholes alarm, but the acronym for the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance survey. According to its findings, in 2022, there were 1.4 million potholes filled in, one in every 22 seconds. But experts complain that at least one in nine miles of the local roads will require further maintenance in 2023.

Interestingly, according to The Asphalt Industry Alliance, the backlog of road repairs totals more than £14 billion (€16 billion or $17 billion) up to this point. It looks like a never-ending struggle for both the industry and the motorist to fight with those damn potholes.

Potholes damage a quarter of UK car owners
Photo: Image from rüveyda on Pexels
Well, this is where Skoda’s system comes in handy, as the carmaker proudly states. In 2021, it launched the Local Hazard Information Service via Skoda Connect’s online services on several models. The system collects and evaluates vehicle data, then warns the driver on the infotainment display about slippery or damaged road surfaces ahead.

So, how does it work? Road information is gathered through three-point sensor technology, from accelerometers, ABS, and friction sensors. Based on the wheel slip, the system estimates the friction between the tires and the road surface.

The data is anonymized, transmitted and stored in the cloud, along with data from millions of other cars that use the Skoda Connect system. All this ‘swarm data’ is paired with metadata like weather information of other measurements.

The software in the central servers creates a precise three-dimensional model of the road networks and identifies the situations where warnings are necessary. The more connected cars send information regarding certain areas, the more accurate the maps become.

This way, warnings also become more accurate and precise, and more drivers can be alerted about the problems of the road ahead. So, the risk of damaging the car because of potholes could be significantly reduced.

Potholes damage a quarter of UK car owners
Photo: Skoda
Moreover, information about road surfaces, especially on the potholes hot topic, can be transmitted in real-time to authorities. They can promptly intervene to carry on necessary repairs when road surface degradation is little, and this means saving money and resources.

The bottom line is connected cars are nothing to be afraid of. This example of counteracting potholes is just a minor one. There are other much more important areas where data from cars’ sensors can greatly improve safety and efficiency. It’s an ongoing development and I’m sure we'll hear more interesting news from carmakers regarding connected car technology.
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About the author: Oraan Marc
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After graduating college with an automotive degree, Oraan went for a journalism career. 15 years went by and another switch turned him from a petrolhead into an electrohead, so watch his profile for insight into green tech, EVs of all kinds and alternative propulsion systems.
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