Roads have been exclusively a means of getting from point A to point B for centuries. Although starting out as mere pathways, their design has improved over the years. Technology is continuously adding to the way that we can improve many of our systems, including our roadways. To make the roads safer, Kansas City Tech has started a project called Integrated Roadways. The aim is to replace the asphalt paving now used in roadways with upgradable factory-made slabs, that can detect vehicles. Kansas City tech has collaborated with the Colorado Department of Transport, in a bid to get smart roads up and running in the shortest possible time.
There will be other technology embedded in the roads including a system to call emergency vehicles to the scene of an accident. Real-time data will also be transmitted to vehicles to allow them to choose the best route, which will co-ordinate well with the introduction of autonomous vehicles. Integrated Roadways will not collect personal data, from vehicles that use their roads, but will be able to identify car makes and models. The smart roads are also expected to be self-funded due to connected billboards, and other integrated advertisement methods.
Once these roadways have been installed, they are expected to be the foundation of a ‘nationwide 5G network.’ This is a scheduled wireless communication method that works by sending data over an integrated fibre-optic mesh.
In addition to the Integrated Roadways plans, there are other ways in which technology is already being incorporated into the design of roadways to make them ‘smarter.’ These include:
Alternate Lighting Methods – To decrease the costs for lighting roads, the Netherlands is experimenting with using paint that contains photo-luminescing powder. It charges up during the day and glows-in-the-dark for up to 10 hours, to light the way for drivers at night. Further research is being conducted to find ways of making the paint last longer, and glow evenly.
There are also several countries that are looking into the possibility of using motion sensor lights on roads that aren’t very busy. The light will come on when a car approaches that section of the road and slowly dim away after it has passed.
Glass is a renewable, environmentally friendly material that can be stronger than steel. Solar Roadways is a project that is expected to install solar panels on glass roads, which would contain microprocessors and LEDs. The roads would be able to melt snow during the winter and the energy generated could be harvested to provide them with their electrical needs. Although glass can be slippery, the roads’ surface would be specially engineered to allow vehicles to stop quickly and safely even when travelling at high speeds.
Electric Vehicle Charging – With many countries planning to make petrol vehicles obsolete, research is being conducted into installing an Electric Priority Lane on some highways. This will facilitate electric vehicles recharging while in transit, via magnetic fields which have been embedded within the roadways.