Nowadays we’re on the road to the future, heading towards sustainability. Imagine the future of transportation, usually we think of electric autonomous cars. But when vehicles evolve in the future, roads have to evolve as well. Vehicles depend on infrastructure and roads are therefore designed to support. Today, roads are just hard surface which consists mainly of asphalt, but they can become so much more! In this blog I will explain several innovations that you will see along the way, when you are on the road of the future.
Imagine if we replace asphalt with solar cells. Roads can collect sunlight, convert this to electricity and fulfil our current electricity needs. It’s a lot of potential power! In the video below, the founders introduce their original idea of a solar road. They want to construct a roadway of panels’ build of a layer of solar cells between layers of glass. The challenge is to design glass that is strong enough to bear trucks but also clear enough to allow sunlight in. When these problems are solved there’s nothing to get in the way of constructing a solar road.
In addition of solar panels implemented between glass panels, led lights can be easily installed beneath the glass. These lights can be used to provide messages like speed guidance or up to date traffic information. We can even use it for dynamic lines in traffic management and switch between a continuous and a dotted line for instance.
Rather than making more energy available in using solar panels we could also save a lot of energy on road lighting. Roads are lightened along thousands of miles of asphalt up to 12 hours every night. The N329 highway in Oss, Netherlands has found an alternative and makes use of a photo-luminescent powder integrated into road paint. The powder charges up by daytime and can glow up to 8 hours at dark as you can see in the photo below. Although it is a pilot project at this stage, it is a promising, sustainable alternative for our current lighting.
Another lighting option is the idea to use motion sensor lights, called interactive light. It is perfect for less-travelled highways linking the villages in the eastern part of the Netherlands for instance. The general principle is that when a car approaches, the movement is detected and the light goes on. When the car passes by, the lights will slowly dim away. In addition, the Delft University of Technology designed a wireless communication system which linked all the lights to one another. Because of this system the surrounding lights will also grow brighter making the area around clearly visible. This overall system of interactive lighting will reduce energy consumption and light pollution.
In my opinion, from now on roads will be no longer just a hard surface to travel from one place to another. We can use the surface area to gain solar energy. We can use the surface to provide us with actual traffic information. We can make roads more energy efficient by using different light options. What keeps us from using these initiatives? Let’s innovate the Dutch road and become front leader in terms of sustainable infrastructure for today, tomorrow and the future.
(written by Eva)