Smart Highways of the Future

Nov 16th, 2012 | By Aubrey Yee

Imagine a ‘glowing’ freeway that charges your electric car and gives you up-to-date weather reports. It might sound like distant science fiction, but Dutch designers Daan Roosegaarde and Heijmans Infrastructure are already working on designs for these ‘smart highways of the future’ with prototypes slated to be rolled out as early as next year in Holland. The Studio Roosegaarde team presented their ideas at the Dutch Design Week this week.

The first prototype will employ a dynamic paint that will become visible to drivers based on certain “contexts.” For example, when it’s icy out, the road will light up with an icon of a snowflake alerting drivers to the dangerous conditions. Other icons could tell drivers about an accident up ahead or temperature fluctuations.

They also demonstrated a ‘glow in the dark’ paint that can charge up during the day so that it will glow for up to 10 hours at night, lighting the way for drivers and making roads safer for bikers.

But perhaps the most innovative and exciting of the design concepts is one that we covered back in May. This is the idea that electric cars would be able to charge wirelessly while driving on a highway. Researchers at Stanford have come up with a wireless charging technology that uses “magnetic resonance coupling” – in other words, copper coils in your car and in the ground transfer electricity between each other while you are driving.

So far no-one has perfected the technology, but researchers are working on the best way to capture the energy produced by such a conduction process in electric vehicles as they drive. Qualcomm recently partnered with Renault to test a new product called the Halo which would easily attach to the bottom of an electric vehicle and enable this sort of wireless in motion charging.

The Dutch designers in this case are imagining a special lane for charging which they call the “Induction Priority Lane,” where they envision magnets that would charge cars as they drive in that lane.

Studio Roosegaarde’s Emina Sendijarevic told Popsci, “By focusing on highways instead of cars, we’re innovating the Dutch landscape to make ‘smart driving’ possible for everyone (instead of those that can afford the latest cars).”

And Studio Roosegaarde founder Daan Roosegaarde explained, “It’s about safety, creating awareness but also making roads energy-neutral in terms of lighting, and most of all: creating the experience of an icon, the Route 66 of the future.”

Leave it to the Dutch to come up with innovative transportation design. After all they are the country with the world’s first bike superhighway! If all goes well with their 2013 prototypes, Studio Roosegaarde hopes to roll out the highways of the future on blacktop across the rest of Europe as soon as possible.

Tagged: sustainability, electric cars, range of electric cars, fuel efficiency, sustainable transportation, electricity from renewable sources, smart highway, fuel, Science & Tech, Innovation

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