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Will the roads of the future be fitted with motion sensors to cut energy use, and induction loops for on-the-go charging?
Designs for cars of the future invariably showcase innovative technology. They deserve roads which benefit from new thinking as well. So argues Dutch design firm Studio Roosegaarde, whose ‘smart highway’ concept, set to be piloted in the Netherlands in 2013, demonstrates.
The design involves motion sensors that detect oncoming vehicles and light the way for them, before turning themselves off again to reduce both energy consumption and light pollution from roads. Lane markings will use glow-in-the-dark paint to minimise the need for lighting, and another temperature-sensitive paint will be used to show ice warnings when the surface is unusually cold.
The concept road also features priority lanes for electric vehicles. Studio Roosegaarde’s designers envision induction loops buried beneath the tarmac, giving drivers the chance to charge their vehicles quite literally as they go.
While this final concept may prove too costly to pilot in the near future, the dynamic paint and luminescent lane markers will be tested against the elements next year (albeit on just 200 metres of road) in collaboration with Dutch civil engineers Heijmans. The paint will need to store enough energy during the daytime to shine for up to
10 hours at night, and withstand weather and traffic as well as normal road markings. Extra cost should be recovered by savings on installation, maintenance and energy bills for streetlights.
Sustainable architecture advocate Rachel Armstrong enthuses about the wider application of these ideas, especially the road markings. She suggests they might be made legible to in-car systems, and become part of a vehicle’s intelligent monitoring of its environment. In her vision, our roads may be multifunctional: “Not only will they light the way, but they will update geo-databases, informing us of traffic accidents, for example”, she projects. – Jon Turney
Photo: Studio Roosegaarde & Heijmans