U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Skip to content

Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

This report is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information
Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-12-072    Date:  May 2013
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-12-072
Date: May 2013


Smart Pavement Monitoring System


The research in this project led to the development of a novel sensor system for continuous health monitoring of pavement structures. The system consists of a self-powered wireless sensor capable of detecting fatigue damage in pavement structures under actual traffic and environmental load history. The developed system is based on the integration of a piezoelectric transducer with an array of ultra-low power FG computational circuits. A miniaturized sensor was developed and tested. It was shown that it is capable of continuous battery-less monitoring of strain events integrated over the occurrence duration time.

Successful development of the proposed strain sensor could dramatically transform the economics of pavement preservation/management and ultimately improve the serviceability of pavements. The developed system consists of a network of low-cost sensors distributed along the pavement. Each sensor node is self-powered and capable of continuously monitoring and storing the dynamic strain levels in the host pavement structure. The strain data are stored on-board the sensor, which consists of the self-powered sensor strip and small-scale electronics. The data from all the sensors are periodically uploaded wirelessly to a central database. The sensor can be read through standard RF transmission using a RF reader that is either manually operated or mounted on a moving vehicle. By directly outfitting service vehicles with low-cost RF transponders, the roads can be frequently monitored to detect changes in structural integrity that may not only foreshadow a future crack/distress manifestation but also allow for more accurate scheduling of preservation actions. It should be noted that only a single RF reader is needed to inspect the sensor network.

The main characteristics of the new sensor are as follows:

Finally, a sensor-specific data interpretation algorithm for predicting remaining fatigue life of a pavement structure was developed using cumulative limited compressed strain data stored in the sensor memory chip. The algorithm was verified using actual laboratory fatigue test results of a notched concrete beam under constant, variable, and random loading histories.


While the development of the new sensor constitutes a major achievement towards the future implementation of self-powered autonomous sensor networks for the continuous health monitoring of in-service pavement structures under actual traffic and environmental loadings for extended periods of time, there are still some challenges for the acceptance in to practice by SHAs. These challenges include the following: