Despite the many technological advances made to vehicles, mobile devices, and cars, we see little change to asphalt roads. There are many things we can do to roads that can help innovate and improve the driving experience, particularly when it comes to road safety. There are also ideas to use roads to store solar energy from the sun and to transfer that energy into electricity for homes.
In this post, we are going to take a look at that and four other technologies that you will see in the roads of the future. The folks behind most of these technologies featured here are known as Studio Roosegaarde. They scored the Best Future Concept Dutch Design Awards in 2012 for their work on the first smart highways.
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1. Glow In The Dark
Rather than spend a large budget on road lighting or other lighting options that span across thousands of miles of roads, the idea to use glow in the dark road markings is a better, more adoptable alternative. Such markings are already made available on the road in the N329 highway in Oss, Netherland.
The markings are made using paint that contains photo-luminising powder that "charges up" during the day. These green glow markings stretch for 500 m long and will glow for up to 8 hours every night, transforming your driving experience Tron-like.
Note: At the time of writing this article, the glowing roads in Oss are currently being closed down temporarily due to inconsistent paint glow. Further testing is being conducted in the laboratory.
2. Interactive Light
Aside from glow in the dark paint, there is also the idea to use motion-sensor lights. Interactive Light works in this sense: when a car approaches a particular stretch of a road, the motion sensors will light up only that section of the road. The lights will grow brighter as the car comes closer and will slowly dim away as it passes.
Interactive Light is perfect for highways that are less-travelled or not always packed with cars. You can’ afford to play dice with the safety of road users, for the sake of saving a penny or two, and Interactive Lights help kill two birds with one stone, providing night visibility as and when required.
3. Wind-Powered Lights
Unlike interactive lights, wind-powered lights will power up itself using pinwheels to generate electricity. It works by harnessing wind drafts from passing cars into electric. The electricity will use to light up the lights on the pinwheels, basically lighting up the road path.
Since it requires wind to power up, these wind-powered lights will only light up as cars pass by the area. For this to work, these pinwheel generators will be set up along the car’s path at the roadside, to continuously light up paths as cars drive through.
4. Electric Priority Lane
Another interesting idea by the same studio is the Electric Priority Lane where electric vehicles (EV) user can charge up their vehicle on the go. And they can do this just by driving on the right lane. The Induction Priority Lane will have embedded magnetic fields that can charge the vehicle while it is on the go. This is especially useful in countries like Netherland, where there there are a lot of EVs on the road.
This will ensure that electric cars do not require to look for charging stations, and can even keep their cars charged on long journeys.
5. Solar Roadways
Remember in the intro where we mentioned roads that can store solar energy? Well, it wasn’t just a theory. Solar Roadways is an indiegogo project that wants to install solar panels on glass roads, complete with LEDs and microprocessors. Glass is renewable, environmentally friendly, and its strength can be improved to be even stronger than steel.
Despite being glass, the surface can be engineered for cars to be able to stop safely even when travelling at speeds of up to 80 mph – like on regular roads. The solar panel roads can even melt snow during winter and of course the solar energy harnessed can be used to power electrical needs.
Roads now no longer remain as a medium to travel from one place to another. We can now use it to charge electric cars and harness solar energy due to its large exposed surface area. There is also technology to keep portions of the roads well-lit with more energy-efficient and environment friendly technology and methods. Hopefully there will be more upcoming technology to make our roads smarter and safer to travel on.