In a glance towards the future of road transport, Compare the Market has explored 6 smart road technologies that are currently in development around the world to see what roads around the world could look like in the years to come.
The roads have been designed as GIFs, and include the following technologies:
- Solar roads
- LED roads
- Electric roads
- Piezoelectric roads
- Self-repairing roads
- Smart road networks
Two of these technologies can be effective in generating energy for the cities in which they operate.
Piezoelectric roads, for example, are currently being piloted in California and use special crystals situated under the road’s surface to harness energy from traffic.
Solar roads generate energy in a different manner by replacing typical road materials with special-made solar panels. These are able to withstand foot and vehicle traffic without breaking and could meet energy demands up to three times over, at just 15 percent efficiency.
Solar roads come with complications such as shade interruptions prohibiting them from effectively absorbing sunlight, meaning they may not be ready for large-scale use until such issues can be overcome.
Trials such as the 2016 experiment in Tourouvre-au-Perche, France, support the theory that more work needs to be done on solar roads before they can truly be effective.
LED roads provide an opportunity to improve visibility of road markings during inclement weather as well as providing real-time road closures when obstructions are in the way.
They could eliminate the need for traffic controllers setting up road cones or barrier fences, by having roads display warnings to drivers at the touch of a button.
With the use of adaptive algorithms and Artificial Intelligence programs, LED roads can also save electricity by only lighting up when cars drive on them.
A unique piece of technology being trialled in countries such as the Netherlands and China is self-repairing roads. Special asphalt mixtures are used to build roads, which can be automatically melted and reformed after being activated by damage sensors, taking roughly three hours (depending on conditions).
Not only could this technology reduce roadworks and congestion, it’s also estimated that having worldwide self-repairing roads could reduce global emissions by 16% and lower infrastructure spending by 32 percent.
Electric roads extend the battery life of electric vehicles by charging them as they drive. While there are trials of these roads throughout Europe, they require a physical connection and effective wireless technology is yet to be developed.
Once implemented, wireless electric roads could revolutionise the way electric cars operate in the future.
Possibly one of the more complex technologies in development, smart road networks utilise software programs, sensors and wireless networks to share important information between gadgets in nanoseconds, commonly known as ‘the internet of things.
With computers within vehicles being able to connect to the road, traffic flows can be managed by means of self-driving cars adapting courses during times of congestion or allowing emergency service vehicles to pass.