The Netherlands to Install Smart Highway in 2013

Success is business and in environmental sustainability truly hinges on innovation. Technology now exists to make your life easier in any number of ways, and improvements going forward will come out of the best thinkers in the world coming up with new applications for these technological breakthroughs. The automotive industry is reinventing itself in ways that break the reliance on fossil fuels, with hybrid technology and autonomous vehicles lowering carbon emissions and creating a much safer environment for drivers and the next generation to live on this planet. But one construction firm in the Netherlands is truly thinking outside the box. Instead of improving the technology of cars, which every company is looking to do, they are focused on improving the technology of the road. The result is the first “smart highway”, which could eventually revolutionize travel.

This is not an entirely new concept, as engineers have been throwing that term about for the past several decades. But this is a unique application. According to Heijmans, the construction firm behind this project and Daan Roosegaarde, the artist who is co-creating the design, the endgame is an infrastructure that supports the driver in a wide variety of ways. In a quote on the company’s web page, Hejimans declares that innovation in the technology of roads will solve problems universally, whether the individual can afford a technologically advanced car or not.

The upgrades they are contemplating are incredibly exciting. It all starts with paint that interacts with light in much different ways. These smart highways will be marked with luminescent paint. Basically, the lane markers will absorb daylight and store it for use at night. The treated paint will then glow for up to ten hours, helping drivers see better even in adverse weather and driving conditions. And best of all, these roads would no longer require additional night lighting. That’s a huge savings in resources. The next step will be treating the entire lane with this glow-in-the-dark powdered paint, so you’ll be able to note changing textures or adjustments in the contour of the road across the entire lane.

They are also developing dynamic paint. This would be applied to the entire road, and would actually turn the asphalt into a temperature gauge. Large icons would be embedded in the surface of the road to alert drivers of dangerous conditions. So if the temperature were to fall into freezing territory, snowflake icons would appear on the road. That way you would know to be aware of potential icy driving situations.

The team is laying the foundation for the first section of smart highway in the North Brabant province of the Netherlands. They expect the reactive paint and advisory icons to be active sometime in the next five years. Even more exciting, this road will have a charging lane. Basically, your electric or hybrid vehicle would recharge while driving over a particular section of the road. With possibilities such as this on the horizon, it’s no surprise Heijmans and Roosegaarde won a concept prize at the 2012 Dutch Design Awards. The whole thing brings up questions likeĀ what is consciousness, especially as these highways begin to react to a driver’s needs with something like sentience. Time will tell how successful the project is, but with interest coming hard and fast from around the world, these smart highways should become part of the infrastructure plan outside of the Netherlands in the near future.

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