Highways re-imagined


For a long time, we have had super innovative cars, but really “dumb roads”. Actually, our roads have experienced very little – if any – innovation since the late 1800’s. Until now, when a clever young Dutch designer, Daan Roosegaarde, decided to approach this the biggest part of our transportations systems with a belief that roads should communicate with its drivers in order to promote both traffic safety but also traffic efficiency.

What is the point of clever cars when we have “dumb” roads? Our cars are designed to tell us everything about driving them, yet our roads tell us nothing and sometimes even “deceit” us into avoidable accidents by concealing unsafe conditions such as icy surfaces.

Well, young, Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde decided to do something about these dumb roads, and so – in collaboration with Heijmans Infrastructure, a Dutch multinational development company – he designed Smart Highway. A whole new road experience to be realized already by the second half of 2013.

“We live in a city of endless gray concrete roads, surrounded by steel lamps. They have a huge visual impact on our city. But why do they remain so rough and without imagination? Why not make them a vision about mobility, a symbol of the future?” says Daan Roosegaarde.

Smart Highway is an interactive and sustainable road that includes a five step plan for modernizing European roadways. It proposes embedding highways with technology that can visually communicate when the road is slippery, charge your electric car as you drive, and generate electricity for its own lights. The goal is to make roads more sustainable and interactive by using light, energy and road signs that automatically adapt to the traffic situation. New design concepts include the ‘Glow-in-the-Dark Road’, ‘Dynamic Paint’, ‘Interactive Light’, ‘Induction Priority Lane’ and ‘Wind Light’.

The Smart Highway isn’t a completely new road, but rather, a kit of parts that can be applied to existing roads as needed. For example, “Dynamic Paint” communicates with drivers about weather and traffic changes. When the temperature drops under freezing and the roads become slick, the paint would activate, covering the road with a dusting of bright cartoon snowflakes. Similarly, a glow-in-the-dark paint treated with photo-luminizing powder could reduce the need for auxiliary lighting. Charged in day light, the glow-in-the-dark road illuminates the contours of the road at night for up to 10 hours.

The designs can improve road safety as roads become more interactive with embedded intelligence and also enable us to get rid of much of the heavy infrastructure that is connected to our road systems, including signs, lamp poles, etc, and hence become a more sustainable solution for the future.

With Smart Highway encouraging drivers to opt for greener vehicular solutions, the project should kick start a whole new wave of interest for electric vehicles as special lanes will charge cars on the go. A great feature seeing that short battery time and limited range is one of the biggest downfalls of electrical cars today.

Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookGoogle+Pin on PinterestShare on Reddit