Expert Systems: Ready to Hit the Road?

by James Denning, Asst. Editor; Civil Engineering, 345 E. 47th St., New York, NY 10017,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1992, Vol. 62, Issue 6, Pg. 71-74

Document Type: Feature article

Errata: (See full record)


Expert systems, programs that take the rules a person uses to solve a problem and encodes them into a computer, are starting to get serious examination from DOTs around the country. The systems have great potential for use in designing pavement rehabilitation strategies, estimating their potential costs, training new engineers and choosing repair methods, but they often require an investment of time, and trust, that some states aren't willing to make. The programs fall into two categories, those with a national scope, usually developed by universities, and those with a local focus, generally produced by a state DOT for in-house use. In both cases, the states that have worked with them generally find them useful tools that free up engineers for more productive tasks and aid in financial planning. But keeping the systems up to date with regards to a state's design codes and maintaining an accurate database of the past and present condition of a state-wide highway system is a challenge that makes expert systems too expensive for some states to maintain. In the future, however, as state budgets tighten and experienced engineers retire, expert systems may become as common as CAD systems are today. The article discusses several expert systems that are in practical or experimental use, with comments from their designers and the engineers who are using them. A sidebar discusses another fast-growing program technique, neural nets, and their uses in pavement rehabilitation.

Subject Headings: Rehabilitation | Expert systems | Highways and roads | Pavement design | Computer aided design | Training | Investments | Colleges and universities

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