When my eldest sister had to drive me around town before I got my license I recall her once saying, “They can send a man to the moon but they can’t make roads that don’t get potholes.” Little did she know that those are two completely different professions and to use them interchangeably is just silly.
But after thinking about her comment, roads haven’t really changed over my lifetime and to be honest, how much have they ever changed since just being dirt? What, if anything, can change with roads in the future? Check out what science and tech have to say about roads of the future!
Instead of streetlamps, a cleaner and greener option is utilizing glow-in-the-dark cement. You heard me. Glow-in-the-dark cement is easier to install than light poles and more environmentally friendly than pumping unneeded electricity during the evening hour after hour. The development could also be safer, allowing drivers to easily see the edges of the pavement where lights may dim and make visibility difficult. Mexican scientist Carlos Rubio Avalos is part of this remarkable endeavor to create concrete that can not only create roads that glow, but also coat houses, bike lanes, and swimming pools. The material can revolutionize construction and change the way cities are lit. Here’s how it works: The material gathers UV rays by allowing sunlight to enter during the day and releasing it when the sun goes down. Rubio Avalos states the properties can last “for 100 years.” Although it would cost more upfront, if it lasts that long it will be well worth it.
Roads That Recharge
In recent years, many scientists have been dedicating their study to create an electric road that would have the ability to charge cars while they are driving. So finding a charging stand may be a thing of the past for electric vehicle drivers when this technology is perfected. There is a large demand for car manufacturers to produce electric vehicles, so this opened up the opportunity for researchers to make travel even more sustainable. How it works: Wireless energy strips get inserted into the concrete and transfer energy to the vehicle’s contact points, giving it enough juice to get loose. Tests are still being completed on the effects of weather and traffic, but it just might be closer to a reality than many think; this year ElectRoad (great name) plans to put an electric bus on a regularly scheduled route and see how well it handles.
When I hear the words “bendable concrete,” one image comes to mind.
But that’s not what scientists in Singapore had in their minds when coming up with the idea for ConFlexPave. This concrete can bend, sure, but it’s also stronger and lasts longer than the typical concrete you drive on today. The research team at Nanyang Technological University worked tirelessly to create a new type of concrete that comes in pre-cut pieces, making them easier and quicker to put in place. Special synthetic microfibers provide the opportunity for flexing and bending while still being strong enough handle the tension. The microfibers help distribute the weight evenly while the hard materials increase the resistance that enable tires to stop more efficiently. Road and tire finally working together!
Variable Speed Limits
You might think that you’ve seen this before, and you might have. But the truth is that this technology is gaining traction fast. In 2014, the A14 smart road in England began monitoring traffic during different times of the day through signals to and from vehicles. In more heavily trafficked parts of the day, the speed limit changes to help alleviate traffic congestion. This ultimately is in line for use with autonomous cars in that the signals sent to the vehicles will allow for automatically controlled speeds, almost eliminating speed limits. Some U.S. cities have been exploring a way to put variable speed limit smart highways into full motion. This summer, Ohio has plans to make I-670 through Columbus the center for research on driverless car smart roads. The Ohio Department of Transportation believes that the change could potentially allow for 30% more vehicles to easily glide through congested areas.
We can’t talk roads of the future without talking cars of the future. And that means self-driving cars, of course. The pros and cons of autonomous cars have been debated and discussed ad nauseam. But the ideas of future roads hinge heavily upon the success of driverless cars. The ideas of the future are at the doorstep and it’s just a matter of time before we see some serious changes moving forward (man, I love word play).
What do you want to see when it comes to driving in the future? Tell us in the comments section!