While traffic and allocations of city road resources normally bring to mind forgotten potholes and gridlock on long weekends, creative solutions on a citywide scale in Europe have started to make the news. Recently, public attention has turned to projects in the Netherlands, illuminating how creative uses of energy technology and data may someday make highway systems safer and more efficient.
Since November 2012, the Smart Highway concept has consistently garnered attention in the tech and environmental media, with coverage on Popular Scientist and Treehugger. Initially, Dutch designers Daan Roosegaarde independently explored how creative solutions to road lighting and temperature monitoring could lead to more efficient energy usage and how helpful information for drivers (such as visual indicators that show when the road is slippery) could prevent accidents. Their hypothetical work garnered attention and praise.
Since then, in addition to the duo winning the Dutch Design Award for Best Future Concept, some of the concepts are actually (and incredibly, as Treehugger points out), going into production for use on Dutch roads through a partnership with Heijmans Infrastructure. Initial tests involve adaptable glow-in-the-dark paint that allows drivers to see the road without the need for streetlamps, with enough absorbed energy from sunlight to last for ten hours. A photoilluminator additive charges during the day and remains bright all night.
Though this current iteration will not involve capturing data from the roads, future projects could involve interactive lights that turn on only when a car approaches, massively decreasing the number of lit highway hours. This switch that save a great deal of money and energy; Wired UK reported that when England ran a similar test dimmed or switched off lights on nearly 5000 km of road in 2011, it saved the government £400,000 .
These and similar innovations, such as the development of solar lamps charged by the sun that can be measured by a telemanagement system as well as an inductive wireless charging lanes for electric cars, will give designers and city planners access to unprecedented efficiency and a wealth of data.