What Does The Future Hold For Us?

An overview of the innovative roads of the future: smart road technologies, innovations in road surface maintenance. Video about the roads of the future.

The auto industry has undergone tremendous changes over the past half century, as have the roads we drive on. Cars are getting faster, smarter and more complex every day, and the infrastructure that supports them is trying to keep up.

Our planet is covered by a global road network. It is constantly growing and will double in 25-30 years. There are many things that can be done in road construction to innovate to make roads safer, stronger, and more comfortable. There is even an idea to use them to collect solar energy, store and transfer it to the power grid of residential buildings.

Today we take a closer look at this and other technologies – taking a virtual journey down the roads of the future, so to speak, to look at incredible innovations and find out how design, materials and design approaches will transform in the coming years.

6 smart road technologies of the future

Glow in the dark

Glow of the road in the dark

Rather than spending a ton of money on traditional road lighting covering thousands of kilometers, the idea of ​​making road markings glow in the dark is a better, more acceptable alternative.

Light-accumulative markings are already available on the roads – for example, in the Netherlands. It is produced using a paint containing a luminous powder: it is “charged” during the day, and in the dark it begins to give off the accumulated light.

Green light stripes stretch along the entire length of the path and glow for up to 8 hours every night, helping to center the car on the road. Ideally, they are complemented by warning road signs made of heat-sensitive paint. Safety is improved and the driving itself is like a computer game. Difficulties arise only because of the inconstancy of the weather, and with it – and the glow of the paint.

Interactive light

Interactive light

In addition to highlighting the movement line, there is also an idea to use sensors. Interactive light works on a simple principle: when a car approaches a certain section of the road, motion sensors only illuminate that section. The light will get brighter as you approach and slowly dim behind the driver.

Interactive light is ideal for highways with a constant low traffic. Experts call it a game of roulette for the safety of all road users to save energy and money, but it cannot be argued that interactive lights help kill two birds with one stone, providing both energy savings and night visibility as needed.

Wind lights

Unlike interactive light sources, wind power devices will be powered by special turntables capable of converting wind currents from passing cars into electric light. For this to work, turntable generators must be installed all the way along the roadside. The lights will light up from passing cars, illuminating the road for them, and then extinguishing.

This method should work well on busy highways, providing constant lighting of the route while minimizing the cost of electricity. But it will not help single cars in the dark – since a sufficiently strong air flow is required to turn on the wind energy lights, they do not light up in advance, but only when driving past the car.

Priority electric lane

Priority electric lane

Another interesting idea is electric vehicle (EV) users will be able to charge their vehicles on the go… To do this, you just need to move along a certain lane.

The so-called “induction band” will have built-in magnetic fields capable of charging the car while it is on the road. This is especially useful in countries where there are many electric vehicles on the road. Their owners no longer need to look for charging stations, and their cars will always be charged.

The undoubted benefit in near and especially on long trips – you don’t have to worry about how far you can drive in order to be able to return home. And the authorities are good – there is no need to build and maintain a series of charging points on each route.

Sunny roads

Sunny roads

Remember we mentioned roads that can harvest solar energy? Well, it wasn’t just theory. Solar Roadways is a new project involving the installation of solar panels on roads made of special glass, with LEDs and microprocessors. Glass will be renewable, environmentally friendly and superior in strength to steel.

Although we are used to thinking of glass as slippery, its surface is designed so that cars can stop quickly and safely, even at high speeds – just like on normal roads. Solar powered highways will also be able to melt snow in winter and of course use solar energy for lighting and other purposes.

Kinetic roads

One of the latest technologies in civil engineering is the development of floor coverings, which, through electromagnetic induction, convert energy steps and store it, for example, to power lighting devices. They can be used indoors and outdoors – in any places with heavy traffic.

The Italians went further in studying the potential of kinetic energy on highways and developed the “Lybra” technology. Roughly speaking, this is a special rubber coating that converts the kinetic energy generated by moving vehicles into electrical energy, and transfers it to the connected power grid.

Innovation in road maintenance

Roads lead us everywhere, even to the most remote places. But when something happens – repair work is underway, a wheel hits a hole, or a speed bump that you didn’t notice turns up – we swear them for what the light is on.

But you know, it’s not easy to build roads, especially if they pass through meadows and swamps. And this is not the only problem – repairing and maintaining highways is sometimes more difficult than laying them. So, here are some innovative technologies that can make this task easier.

Plastic roads

Plastic roads

According to WWF, concrete production accounts for 8% of the world’s CO2 emissions. Concrete is made from solid aggregates such as limestone, granite or sand, bonded with cement, bitumen, or other viscous mixtures. But what if we try to replace these limited natural resources with one of the harmful biological products of mankind – plastic? It can be used in three ways:

  • for the construction of new roads;
  • for patching up existing ones;
  • for a complete replacement of the coating.

In India, for example, plastic has long been successfully used to fill small road potholes, and in the UK they have developed a technique for converting plastic into granules – after such an operation, they are added to asphalt, reducing the content of natural binders in it. 1 ton of asphalt requires only 5-10 kg of recycled plastic – this mixture makes the road surface much stronger and more durable. Recycled plastic can be used in its pure form, and not only for patches, but also for a complete replacement of the road surface.

In addition, work is underway in the field of prefabricated modular structures. Lightweight plastic blocks weigh four times less than asphalt, last at least three times longer, and build a road 70% faster. Inside there are cavities that allow laying pipes and cables without time-consuming earthwork and capable of collecting excess water, preventing flooding during extreme rainfall.

But there is one unpleasant nuance. Life “in plastic” is not as good as it seems. As roads deteriorate, small plastic microparticles released into the environment can have detrimental effects on wildlife and human health.

Electric snow melting systems

Electric snow melting systems

Winters can be quite tough for motorists, especially when it snows constantly. Clearing roads takes a lot of time and effort, not to mention the dangers that await drivers.

Electric snow melting systems help out in mild but snowy winters. They are available in two formats – mat and cable. Mats allow for quick and easy installation over large areas, cables for maximum flexibility.

Both systems heat the road surface without letting it freeze (as the snow melts, surface water evaporates without re-freezing) and combine with various controls and sensors to detect factors such as air temperature or asphalt moisture.

Importantly, they allow you to do without rock salt and harmful chemicals that are dangerous to people, animals and vehicles. The only bad thing is that the depth of their occurrence is not great. The disadvantages also include high power consumption and inefficiency at really low temperatures. But scientists are working on it.

Fast repair with special patches

Fast repair with special patches

Road repairs can take a long time. As a rule, it causes traffic disturbances, as a result – kilometer-long traffic jams and angry, unhappy people. But with the right patches, things can be done much faster and easier.

The Duluth airport, which is used for F16 fighters, is tired of dealing with potholes on the runways. In the fall of 2019, we decided to try a new development – American Road Patch. The old patches were removed, a new “plaster” was applied and tamped well, introducing a wear-resistant waterproofing membrane into the road surface. Since then, after numerous rains, snowfalls and temperature drops, the patches continue to work. Importantly, after application, they can immediately be subjected to stress.

The technology has interested road builders. In the States, it is already being used with might and main on roads with heavy traffic – for quickly repairing potholes, sealing asphalt and concrete cracks, sealing around hatches, gutters, curbs and road signs, smoothing uneven bridge connections, etc.

Self-healing roads

Self-healing roads

Concrete, no matter how high quality, eventually cracks and needs to be repaired. Can he “heal” himself? It’s hard to believe, but scientists have found a way to make it self-healing.

In 2013, University of Bath, Cardiff and Cambridge University collaborated to develop a new concept for smart concrete and other cement-based building materials. As part of the project, they created a concrete mixture containing microcapsules with a special reagent – bacteria that are activated when water enters the crack. As a result, calcite (limestone) is formed, which reliably plugs the crack even before water and oxygen begin to corrode the metal reinforcement located in the depths.

The advantages of this technology can hardly be overestimated – it will be of great help physically, financially and temporarily.

Conclusion

The need for sustainable transport infrastructure and environmental solutions has prompted researchers to look for unconventional methods of road construction, conservation and improvement.

Trails stop being a dull environment to move from one place to another and gradually turn into multitasking hubs. We will soon be able to use them to charge electric vehicles and even generate alternative energy to power our homes. This will be easy thanks to their large, flat, open-air surfaces.

There are also technologies that provide good illumination of road sections using energy efficient and environmentally friendly methods. We hope that in our lifetime the roads will become “smarter”, more fun, cleaner and safer. It remains only to deal with the pits.

Video about the roads of the future:

An overview of the innovative roads of the future: smart road technologies, innovations in road surface maintenance. Video about the roads of the future.

Innovative highways: what does the future hold for us?

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  1. 6 smart road technologies of the future
  2. Innovation in road maintenance
  3. Video about the roads of the future

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