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International award for UWL academic who uses algorithms to improve road safety

Dr Fabio Tosti

A University of West London (UWL) research fellow whose work is helping to improve safety on roads and railways has won a prestigious international science award.

Dr Fabio Tosti BSc, MSc (Hons.), PhD (Hons.) has scooped the European Geosciences Union award for ‘Division Outstanding Early Career Scientists for the Division on Geosciences Instrumentation and Data Systems.’

It comes in recognition of his work which is helping to reduce damage to transport infrastructure such as highways and railways, by using innovative computer algorithms for monitoring their condition. This leads to fewer delays on routes and fewer vehicle crashes.

Dr Tosti, who works at the School of Computing and Engineering, uses Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to examine what is happening in the ground beneath the tarmac or rail sleepers. This testing technique is known as ‘non-destructive’ because it does not involve digging a hole in a road in order to gather data, unlike other techniques which do. Instead, GPR shoots beams of electromagnetic waves in to the ground which Dr Tosti then turns in to rich insights by using innovative algorithms to crunch the data.

Monitoring and maintaining the integrity of public transport infrastructure is vital for obvious public safety reasons and using GPR for this is not new. But the award judges were impressed by the richness of data Dr Tosti gathers with his algorithms and the fact that his method weakens the case for using other so-called ‘destructive’ monitoring methods, such as digging holes.

This has a major benefit for road safety because there is an established link between highway closures and a higher frequency of vehicle crashes. Dr Tosti’s method reduces the need to close or partially close highways in order to dig holes, since GPR can be attached to a moving vehicle. Therefore, his technique results in improved public safety by not raising the risk of vehicle collisions.

Dr Tosti’s award-winning research also benefits the agencies responsible for maintaining highways and railways. His rich algorithmic insights enable repairs and maintenance to be planned more smartly, catching structural weaknesses early before they develop into dangerous damage on road surfaces or rail tracks.

UWL research fellow Dr Fabio Tosti said: ‘I am truly honoured to receive this award, which is a wonderful reward for my research in this area for the past few years.

‘Receiving this award is very encouraging for me in pursuing my chosen path as a research academic. As part of that, I’m currently working toward the development of a new Non-destructive Testing Research Centre at the University of West London, led by Professor Amir Alani.’

Professor Amir Alani, Executive Head of the School of Computing and Engineering said: 'This is a great achievement for Dr Tosti as well as the research group at the University of West London, demonstrating the calibre and the quality of research work in the University.'

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