Can roads be smart? This seems like a trick question. How can pavement be smart? However, our roads are actually pretty smart already! Many of them are built with effects such as weather, heavy traffic, and uses beyond motor vehicles in mind. A lot of science, engineering, and technology went into the roads we already have now.
Our technology has grown, and that includes transportation technology. All over the world, technologies that look like science fiction are being put to use by real people. Here are some ways roads can be smart:
Imagine how much electricity those street lights consume. Since they’re mostly used at night, there are fewer cars, meaning a lot of that electricity is being wasted. Various methods have been used to make street lighting more sustainable: Interactive roadways alert lights via WiFi that someone is coming, turning them on. Wind and solar-powered roads collect energy from passing cars or the daytime to charge up their lighting at night. Some roads even use the passing of the cars themselves to charge up and glow.
What if you are in an accident and can’t call for help? This frightening scenario can be avoided by a smart road design that reads the activity on the pavement and alerts emergency personnel in case of an accident. A bonus is that the pavement can also provide detailed information about traffic patterns, allowing planners and engineers to help improve our roads in other ways. This type of road is already being tested in Colorado.
Roads That Talk to Cars
Automobile designers are getting in on this as well. Using technologies such as Wi-Fi and solar panels on the road creates connections between roads and cars that we’ve never had before. Imagine the road and your car collaborating on finding a parking space or alerting you of traffic and weather conditions along your route. Some of this is already happening from satellite and phone applications, but when the road itself can tell your car what to expect and even guides you to the best detours, you can be secure with real-time information to work with.
It’s not enough to switch to electric cars, especially if we can’t charge them. While many countries are installing charging stations all over, scientists are experimenting with ways to charge cars on the road itself. Solar panels can pick up energy and transfer it to vehicle batteries, or the energy can come from the friction of vehicle movement. Roads like this can reduce the number of gasoline-dependent vehicles on the road by encouraging the use of electric cars. The effects are a cleaner, greener planet.
The following infographic shows a few other ways transportation technologies can contribute to sustainable and potentially safer travel. With both cars and the roads working together to augment driving, we can create roads that are safer, more efficient, and less congested. All over, engineers and designers are working to make our roads smarter, turning what seems like science fiction into science fact. Here are even more ways smart roads are the future around the world: