If there is one thing we’ve figured out about Chris Sunde, it’s this: He believes passionately that cities need better roads, that people need safer ways to drive, and that affordable and easy-to-use technology can make both happen.
All of that created the foundation for his company, GoodRoads.
With GoodRoads, Sunde and his team built software that gives experts the information they need to fix roads. This information comes from data collected from the company’s low-cost device and its public smartphone app. That data is then converted into a quality rating for each road and provided to pavement managers.
Today, people are engaging in this process manually; GoodRoads is training computers to do it, making it quicker, more accurate and more affordable.
Consider it a data-science approach to solving a modern, American crisis. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, the American road network received a “D” rating as a whole — one step above failure.
American roads weren’t always this treacherous. At one point in the latter part of the 20th century, the U.S. road network was considered the biggest and best in the world. Today, it doesn’t even finish in the top 10. To make matters worse, there’s an infrastructure funding gap, which means that the U.S. only has a fraction of the money needed to repair its D-rated roads.
“We want to make the public aware that there is a crisis,” Sunde says. “And then, to educate the public.”
A Charlotte native, Sunde studied civil engineering at North Carolina State University. After graduation, he moved to the city of Perris, a high-growth community in Southern California, to work as deputy city engineer, responsible for setting up the city’s first pavement management program. It was both an uphill battle that proved not only how difficult but also how expensive it is for a city to begin and sustain a pavement management program.
He also experienced how personal this challenge was for residents.
On one occasion, he received a phone call from an irate Perris resident who was questioning the city’s motives when it came to a road project. Sunde spent time on the phone with him, relieving his concerns by explaining the process of road paving in full.
It was then that Sunde realized just how little people understood about the process of road restoration.
After earning his MBA from The University of California at Riverside in 2012, Sunde moved back to Charlotte. He took a job as a project engineer with DRMP, a firm that provides infrastructure engineering and survey services for public works projects in the Southeastern United States.
Then, in 2016, Sunde started down the road of entrepreneur with co-founders Robert Mion, Kyle Raub and Jim Rublee.
“I had this [idea for GoodRoads] in the back of my mind, and I finally decided to take the leap and figure out how we could solve the problem,” Sunde recalls.
The team settled on the name GoodRoads as a tribute to an American crusade started by bicyclists in the late 1800s, before the federal government created the National Highway System in 1926. The Good Roads movement emphasized building and improving American roads, paving the way for not only people but also opportunities. North Carolina specifically is known as “The Good Roads State”, making it a perfect place to launch and GoodRoads a perfect name.
The team has been beta-testing in Charlotte and recently started working with surrounding cities. As they continue to refine the platform, the goal for GoodRoads is to be useful and available not only to those whose job is to maintain our roads, but also to everyday American drivers.
“What we’re doing is connecting cities,” Sunde says. “And in doing so, we’re bringing each community together.”
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