Road Profiler Performance Evaluation and Accuracy Criteria Analysis

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Virginia Tech


Road smoothness is one of the most important road functional characteristics because it affects ride quality, operation cost, and vehicle dynamic load. There are many types of devices that measure the road profile, which is often used to compute different smoothness indices. The development of performance-based specifications and pavement warranties that use ride quality as a performance measure has increased the need for accurate measurement of pavement smoothness. For this reason, researchers have compared and evaluated the performance of available profilers and several profiler accuracy criteria have been proposed. However, there is not a definite answer on the ability of available profilers to accurately measure the actual road profile as well as the various smoothness indices.

A recent profiler round-up compared the performance of 68 profilers on five test sections at Virginia Smart Road. The equipment evaluated included high-speed, light-weight, and walking-speed profilers, in addition to the reference device (rod and level). The test sites included two sites with traditional hot-mix asphalt (HMA) surfaces, one with a coarse-textured HMA surface, one on a continuously reinforced concrete pavement (CRCP), and one on a jointed plain concrete pavement (JCP). This investigation used a sample of the data collected during the experiment to compare the profiles and International Roughness Index (IRI) measured by each type of equipment with each other and with the reference. These comparisons allowed determination of the accuracy and repeatability capabilities of the existing equipment, evaluation of the appropriateness of various profiler accuracy criteria, and recommendations of usage criteria for different applications.

The main conclusion of this investigation is that there are profilers available that can produce the level of accuracy (repeatability and bias) required for construction quality control and assurance. However, the analysis also showed that the accuracy varies significantly even with the same type of device. None of the inertial profilers evaluated met the current IRI bias standard requirements on all five test sites. On average, the profilers evaluated produced more accurate results on the conventional smooth pavement than on the coarse textured pavements. The cross-correlation method appears to have some advantages over the conventional point-to-point statistics method for comparing the measured profiles. On the sites investigated, good cross-correlation among the measured and reference profiles assured acceptable IRI accuracy. Finally, analysis based on Power Spectral Density and gain method showed that the profiler gain errors are nonuniformly distributed and that errors at different wavelengths have variable effects on the IRI bias.



Profiler, Road Profile, IRI, Repeatability, Accuracy