Pavement Distress Recognition via Wavelet-Based Clustering of Smartphone Accelerometer Data

Parastoo Kamranfar, David Lattanzi, Amarda Shehu, Shelley Stoffels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The ubiquity of smartphones has led to a variety of studies on how phone accelerometers can be used to assess road pavement quality. The majority of prior studies have emphasized supervised machine learning, assuming the ability to collect labeled data for model development. However, variances in vehicle dynamics and roadway quality, as well as the reliance on data labeling, limit the generalizability, scalability, and reproducibility of these approaches. Here, we propose an unsupervised learning framework that combines Pareto-optimized wavelet featurization and clustering. We first demonstrate the applicability of wavelets as features for dimensionally reduced accelerometer data. Wavelet featurization typically requires significant empirical tuning for optimal featurization. The presented framework automates tuning and selection of wavelet features based on subsequent clustering metrics. These metrics are related to inherent cluster characteristics such as intercluster variance and between-cluster variance. Rather than select a clustering method a priori, the proposed approach optimizes across a variety of clustering algorithms and hyperparameter configurations, again based on a set of clustering metrics. Experimental evaluation shows that the framework is able to detect road pavement distress and distinguish between classes of pavement defects, but that low-cost smartphone sensor data may not be as reliable in discriminating the more nuanced characteristics of pavement distress. This was most notable in the case of cracking, where the type and range of cracking severity caused undesirable cluster separation. The presented framework is general and cost-efficient and opens the way to further research on automatic pavement distress recognition from crowdsourced, low-cost data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number04022007
JournalJournal of Computing in Civil Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications


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