Python 5000 patches potholes in minutes


March 24, 2012

The Python 5000's single operator can quickly fill potholes from within the vehicle's cab

The Python 5000's single operator can quickly fill potholes from within the vehicle's cab

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Nobody likes potholes, but it often seems that they’re one of those hardships we just have to put up with until they get almost impassable ... after all, it’s a big deal to send out a road crew who will have to block one or two lanes of traffic for half an hour or more, while they risk being struck by inattentive drivers. Apparently, however, pothole-filling needn’t be such an involved process. Cities now have the option of using the Python 5000, which is a vehicle that is operated by one person from inside its cab, and that can patch a two-foot (0.6-meter) pothole in about two minutes.

To use the Python, its driver/operator starts by filling its rear 5-ton (4.5-tonne) hopper with either hot or cold-mix asphalt. It can then be driven at highway speeds, to the pothole in question.

Once there, the driver needs to block only the lane that the pothole is in, as they won’t be working outside of the vehicle themselves. Instead, they use a joystick to maneuver its extending, pivoting front working arm until it’s directly over the pothole, then apply a jet of compressed air to blast out any dirt, loose asphalt, water or other contaminants within the hole.

Next, they apply a layer of emulsive tack oil to the hole’s interior surface – this helps the new asphalt to adhere. A conveyor belt running from the hopper up through the arm then delivers fresh asphalt into the hole. That asphalt is kept at the desired working temperature while in the hopper, using heat from the vehicle’s engine exhaust. A rake and a roller attached to the arm are subsequently used to push the asphalt into place, and then press it down into a smooth finished patch.

According to the manufacturer, Saskatchewan-based Python Manufacturing Inc., patches made by the vehicle are equal in quality to the original road surface, and should last at least as long as those made by traditional road crews. In fact, they should last longer than patches made using the so-called “throw-and-go” method, in which asphalt is simply shoveled into a pothole that hasn’t been cleaned out or prepared first. The vehicle's hole-filling method is reportedly effective even at temperatures down to -40ºC/F, and allows a single user to patch approximately three times as many potholes as a multi-person crew could manage in one day.

The Python 5000 has actually been around for a few years, although it has recently garnered some new attention, as it is currently being tried out by the City of New York. If that trial goes well, other cities could follow suit.

Source: Python Manufacturing Inc. via Gizmodo

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Now there is a good idea.

Snake Oil Baron

saw the interview with the inventor elsewhere his presentation was ah, ah, the machine seems like an improvement over five people standing around doing nothing that we usually see here in Oregon

Bill Bennett

Northampton, Massachusetts really needs this machine!


marvelous idea


We need these in Tucson!

Alex Lekander

my city has had something similar for a couple years now...and its a POS. Its temporary fills last only a couple months before they break, and the pothole is back.

Our city just uses it as a way to make the roads temporarily better until a road crew can come and do it the proper way. Which is to use a concrete saw and cut out the bad portion, remove all the debris, place rebar in it, and fill the hole full of concrete.

Derek Howe

I imagine it would seem to be a POS if it were filling potholes in concrete with asphalt. It's pothole season here in Alaska, might be worth trying. Doubt it would beat our two man teams though.

Douglas Renfro

I'm not a Luddite but this looks like another cause of unemployment... what will the people who've been laid off because the council bought a few of these do to fill their time? I suppose they could be employed to maintain the vehicles!

And the removal of loose material by compressed air seems a bit risky as flying stones would make nice dents on passing vehicles/pedestrians.


Send a couple of thousand to Australia. We could keep them going for years. We also need bigger ones that can fill in holes 3 and 4 times bigger. Some newer freeway and tollways have potholes and they are less than 10 years old. Actually we need better built roads across the whole country.


Perhaps a stpid question, but why not inject a stabiliser/adhesive into the hole first to impregnate the surrounding edge, which stabilisers the edge and provides adhesion of the new material. Tar, mrely provides an adhesion to the old edge surely with little or no penetration. Funny how I envisage a machine similar to what is used to repair the glass windscreens - clear debris from hole, cover hole and evacuate, impregnate with resin, fill hole with more resin or an injection moulding style fill, move to next hole. Perhaps when Plasticrete becomes reality or something.


Having bicycled in Boston for 8 years I tended to get road rage at the work crews in charge of fixing potholes (which can be life threatening to bikes). They'd make a half-assed attempt to fill the hole, give it a ceremonial pat and leave a mound instead of a hole. I hate it when workers (or supervisors) don't do their jobs properly over and over again. Time for the machines to replace those losers.


We have something similar here in NoVA. Our pothole vehicle does basically what this one does, except it does not have asphalt. Instead it's hopper is filled with fine gravel and it mixes this gravel with a hot-melt-glue stuff and fills the hole with that. It heats the glue on demand so there is no need to keep anything warmed up driving between potholes. Plus it's fully automated. Position the vehicle over the pothole, and in 2 minutes, it's no longer a pothole...and yes, the filled material lasts longer than the surrounding asphalt!


The Python 5000 is not like the other machine that some of you are mentioning. First, it does not require special materials but uses all types of asphalt mixes - both hot and cold. Secondly, its patches are permanent - not because of the tack oil - but because the asphalt is warmer than the surrounding pavement which creates a bond. And it provides much better compaction than even a large construction roller. You can use it in all types of weather. We've repaired potholes in pouring rain, and extreme Canadian weather. Those patches have remained intact after a couple of years and I'm sure will remain for many more years. No, it won't put people out of work - they'll now have time to work on the bigger repair jobs. The Python 5000 really shines at performing preventative maintenance - fixing the potholes while they're small before they get to be a big problem, and when traditional road crews rarely have time to get out and fix them. And even more important, it keeps the workers safely out of the traffic.

Marj Strandlund

WOW - send several thousand of these over to South Africa for the ultimate test!

Philip Meyer

maybe,... hopefully, they'll start working on a machine to actually fix the roads here in Saskatchewan next, and start using it on a full time basis!

Stefan Sorgard
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