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Michelin Buys RoadBotics in Drive for More Road Data

Following efforts last year to beef up its data analysis capabilities, the tire company's deal to acquire the gov tech startup could produce tools that help road operators better prioritize infrastructure improvements.

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A deal that brings together one of the world’s oldest tire companies with a young government technology firm shows the rising power of so-called big data and the attraction of smarter mobility services for agencies tasked with road maintenance.

Michelin, which traces its roots back to late 19th-century France, announced in a news release this week that it has acquired RoadBotics, which was spun out of Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute in 2016.

On its website, RoadBotics says it “transforms your visual infrastructure into meaningful maps using artificial intelligence.” The company has become known for enabling smartphone cameras to inventory roadway assets like signs and sidewalks, find cracks and potholes in roads, generate road condition scores and perform other functions that help state and local governments prioritize infrastructure projects.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In a statement announcing the deal, Michelin touted the ability of RoadBotics to bring efficiencies to road maintenance — part of the tire company's larger strategy. By 2030, the company said, up to 30 percent of its revenue will come from areas other than tires.

“Thanks to RoadBotics’ computer vision know-how, the images are transformed into actionable insights which helps road managers to identify priority maintenance areas,” the company said in that statement. “With this acquisition, Michelin is fostering the development of services and solutions already offered by Michelin DDi (Driving Data to Intelligence), a [Michelin] Group activity committed to analyzing data and driving behavior.”

Michelin DDi exists to improve overall driver safety via data and market analysis, according to the company. The effort will involve public agencies, judging by another data-driven deal undertaken last year by Michelin.

In May 2021, Michelin announced its partnership with mobile and data analytics company Arity — which was founded by Allstate, an insurance provider — to “develop data-powered solutions for transportation departments and cities to improve road safety across the U.S.”

Michelin said it would combine data analysis from its DDi unit with Arity’s driving behavior database, a collection of information from about 100 million consumer interactions.

The new RoadBotics deal offers similar benefits to Michelin as it tries to beef up its data analytics and related business, according to a public statement from Lorraine Frega, executive vice president of distribution, services and solutions at Michelin Group.

“Today, we have historic knowledge about tire and vehicle usage, driving behavior and expertise in valorizing mobility data,” she said. “Our clients benefit from this combination of know-how, in particular through customized services and solutions that make their activities safer, more effective and more sustainable.”

Frega said the goal of this deal is to give Michelin clients, including officials who manage road infrastructures, a more robust data intelligence offering. She added that new acquisition will help Michelin as it expands its data and analysis tools in North America and Europe.