From the Future: A Smarter Highway

While Google is racing ahead to create a data-driven, self-driving car, one Dutch designer is working on the opposite end: designing a smart highway that will communicate with your car. As one of the winners of this year’s Index awards, which comes with a €100,000 prize, Daan Roosegaarde, collaborating with Hijmans Infrastructure, will test out a road that will “communicate with its drivers in order to promote both traffic safety and efficiency.”

Roosegaarde writes: “We live in cities of endless gray concrete roads, surrounded by steel lamps and they have a huge visual impact on our cities. But why do the roads remain so rough and without imagination? Why not turn them into a vision of mobility – a symbol of the future?”

His smart highway concept is pretty mind-bending. He wants to embed highways with technology that can “visually communicate when the road is slippery,” actually charge your electric vehicle as you drive, and use its own electricity to create spot lighting as needed. “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 roads would be covered in a kind of responsive paint so that if the temperature dropped below freezing and it started raining, the paint would turn on, covering the road in snowflakes.

At night, the road could actually light itself, which Roosegaarde thinks would be more efficient. “Glow-in-the-dark paint treated with photo-luminizing powder could reduce the need for auxiliary lighting. Charged in daylight, the glow-in-the-dark road illuminates the contours of the road at night for up to 10 hours.”

With his pot of money, Roosegaarde wants to further develop and even patent these technologies. He sees other wild applications, like “taking the bioluminescence of jellyfish or fireflies and applying this to nature, thus making roadside plants and trees glow at night as an alternative to public lighting – resulting in a 100 percent new natural lighting.”

A few other projects also won Index awards. One certainly worth highlighting is Copenhagen’s climate change adaption plan. Index writes: “Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, found a way to connect and address the climate changes in one master plan. The city’s Climate Adaptation Plan aims to prepare Copenhagen for the future by developing the Danish capital as a climate proof, attractive, and green city.”

While municipalities in Denmark must create climate action plans, Copenhagen has actually gone a step further, creating a plan that “can be of pleasure and benefit to the city immediately.”

They write: “The Copenhagen Climate Adaptation Plan really stands out with its main focus on seeing flooding and climate adaptation as a resource rather than a problem, benefiting businesses and citizens alike. Thus, by rethinking climate adaptations as a whole, via in-depth analyzes, the Danish capital will use excess water as a vital resource – while implementing flexible design solutions that reduce construction work and saves money for the city.”

Index: Design to Improve Life is a Danish non-profit organization “under the patronage of HRH The Crown Prince of Denmark.”

Image credits: (1-3) Smart / Highway / Index: Design to Improve Life, (4) Copenhagen Flooding / Index: Design to Improve Life,

4 thoughts on “From the Future: A Smarter Highway

  1. Bernie McCune 09/05/2013 / 10:10 am

    This idea of keeping us informed as to changing road conditions and lighting our way at night in a better (visual) way is very good. It will allow all of us to drive in more comfort and safety. And people like me, whose reaction times get longer in my old age, will continue to be mobile (and happy) while still not being a threat to ourselves or others.

    And when we finally realize that major elements of climate and weather are natural and difficult to control, the idea of adapting to these “spikey” events is much more likely to allow us to cope with them while putting our money into these clever emerging technologies and plans. I vote for that sort of green.

  2. Kent G. Worley, ASLA 09/05/2013 / 8:49 pm

    Hope they will also focus on safety as related to excessive speeds. There is nothing more responsible for traffic deaths and injury than our seemingly impossibility to deal with speed by merely reducing it. Now with most employing our toys and distractions, it is more important than ever. And to think, we could each solve this by merely slowing down!

  3. baxter miller 09/13/2013 / 12:55 pm

    The advancement of personal transportation will be cars or modules that are self aware and linked to a wireless grid. The data will be transformed to action. The cars will slow down, merging will be effortless, and this will work on dirt roads. The only problem is that systems fail. One failure will shut down the whole thing. The butterfly effect comes to mind. I believe that personal transportation will be of the past. Feet, bikes and segways will be our main forms of transportation. I look forward to it.

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