The Payver program by Blyncsy revolutionizes road care in Arches National Park through dashcam footage and AI technology.

Blyncsy uses AI to improve infrastructure

The Payver program by Blyncsy revolutionizes road care in Arches National Park through dashcam footage and AI technology.

“We didn’t have to pave more parking spots,” says Emily Niehaus, a social entrepreneur and the City of Moab’s mayor from 2018 to 2021. “We needed to use technology.”

During her time as mayor, Niehaus was part of a project to develop an app for Arches National Park.

“Arches was seeing some extreme overcrowding, both in the parking lot and at the entrance booth, [so we] built a ticket system with slots for entry.”

The public responded loud and clear: No, thank you.

“Man, it was as if Arches was stabbing Moab in the gut,” she says. “‘Why would you do this,’ ‘No one is going to come anymore’ and ‘This is going to be a disaster,’ were thrown around a lot.”

In reality, the app and messaging made the entrance much more organized. Niehaus says visitors overwhelmingly reported a more positive experience since the technology integration. Eventually, the locals came around.

But on the heels of the project’s success, Niehaus couldn’t put the idea down. She continued to think about how technology could solve more long-standing problems.

“All of the traffic along I-15 and how much money we as a state throw at expansion,” she explains. “I felt like we could do more with transportation and technology.”

Serendipitously, that was something Mark Pittman, CEO of Blyncsy, was thinking about, too.

Their program, Payver, combines dashcam footage with machine learning to track changes and declines in infrastructure.

“We buy the imagery from semi-trucks, Amazon delivery vehicles,” he says. “A lot of vehicles are equipped with dashcams now.”

“A lot” is just over 400,000. They each provide real-time data that the company then processes.

“We’re looking for roadkill, debris, signs that are damaged, streetlights that are out,” Pittman lists. “We’re looking for the presence of sidewalks, trash on the streets.”

Payver’s main goal is to escalate good decision making.

“Data is the new asphalt,” Pittman says. “It’s one thing for law enforcement to say, ‘Gosh, this is the fourth or fifth accident here. Maybe we should try to restructure this.’ That’s reactionary. We want to be proactive.”

Larger cities like New York City have started to use the technology to great benefit, Pittman says. But while it may seem best suited for packed sidewalks and all-day traffic jams, rural communities are often in need of such insight—especially in Utah.

“The Wasatch Front gets most of the funding and most of the attention because they have most of the people,” Niehaus says. “Yet rural Utah fuels the Wasatch Front in things as simple as recreation but also more complex issues like water, food, agriculture, tools and materials.”

Pittman says rural communities like Moab deal especially with the cleanliness of their roads.

“These stretches of highway see more litter because people driving through assume it’s the middle of nowhere,” he says. “‘I can throw my trash out the window, it doesn’t matter,’ but there are people that live here. It’s their community being impacted in ways that, without this technology, the greater state would never see.”

According to Niehaus, “5,000 people live [in Moab], but 5 million visit.” That’s why the quality of the roads is a huge decider in tourism dollars, Pittman says.

“Most of the area surrounding us is a two-lane highway,” he says. “If something happens in one of those lanes, the whole freeway is shut down, and you can’t really get out. Over near Salt Lake, we have multiple ways you can connect to side streets or connect to different freeways, but out there, there’s only one way in and one way out.”

"Business owners need to know that a company like Blyncsy is doing this work and that it’s been successful in communities like mine. We should be demanding that their technology be used on a larger scale."

Payver has been able to track down cracked roads and dangerous turns to help ease traffic jams in the area. The greatest concern for Niehaus, though, is the safety of her city’s visitors and residents.

“It takes a long time for roadside service workers to get out here,” she says. “If I hit a pothole and damage my tire, we can be stranded on the side of the road for hours.”

A turning point in the argument for technology integration was a fatal accident at the turnout of Arches National Park.

“There was just a stop sign, and it made left-hand turns very difficult,” Niehaus says. “A car collided with another trying to make a turn, and our hospital didn’t have the capacity to deal with that level of trauma. People think that every hospital has emergency rooms and ICUs or doctors on staff who are able to perform heart surgeries. That just isn’t the case for Moab.”

After the accident, the CEO of Moab’s hospital called UDOT to request a traffic light at the intersection, which was eventually granted.

“We spent a lot of money in that spot, and still, we had to have a life lost before action was taken,” she says. “We wanted a new approach—what Payver was doing.”

Niehaus anticipated resistance to another city-wide adaption of technology. But of course, even with the town on her side, there were bigger issues.

“Change is a big issue,” she says. “Like we’ve seen, people are often hesitant to accept any big shifts. But let’s be honest—money is where, pun intended, the rubber hits the road.”

Traditionally, engineering firms charge upwards of $200 per mile to monitor such large swaths of road, Pittman says. These assessments occur every five years, leaving lots of wiggle room for certain sites to turn unmanageable. And with nearly 100,000 miles of highway throughout the state, the cost can quickly become burdensome.

“More urban environments may have the cash to enter into deals like that,” Pittman says. “But as temperatures get more extreme, as we get more and more snow, as EVs (which are much heavier than gas-fueled cars) hit the road, our infrastructure gets run down faster. That’s the case for everyone everywhere, whether or not they can afford that price tag.”

Pittman says that’s why making assessment technology like Payver accessible for all types of communities was one of Blyncsy’s top priorities.

“We charge less than $20 per mile to do the same analysis and tracking,” he says.

When all communities can maintain their roads, the benefits aren’t isolated.

“It is more expensive to completely rebuild roads,” he says. “While some might balk at the idea of putting up a lot of money upfront, thinking long-term saves everyone tax revenue in the long haul. Then, municipalities can use their budgets on other programs and things that also serve their communities, all while having safer roads.”

Moab is proof that such applications can work in the state of Utah, Niehaus says. She’s confident in mass adoption in the coming years—it will require just “a little evangelizing.”

“With the partnerships between politicians and good leadership at the state level, I think we’ve satisfied that part of the work,” Niehaus says. “But we need the business community to speak up and demand that data be the new asphalt. They’re the ones shipping the goods and transporting the services. Business owners need to know that a company like Blyncsy is doing this work and that it’s been successful in communities like mine. We should be demanding that their technology be used on a larger scale.”

Jacqueline is a Master of Accounting graduate from the University of Utah. Specializing in tax, she's interested in business, government, and the intersection of the two. When she's not studying or writing, she loves to run, play Candy Crush, and read novels.