As roadways are continuously evolving, smart technologies are being introduced to make them safer and more efficient for drivers. These innovations are revolutionizing the future of transportation, serving not only to improve road safety but also to contribute to sustainable development and urban planning. Here are some key smart road technologies that are changing the way we view transportation:
Electric Charging Lanes:
Companies like ElectReon have introduced electric charging lanes that use Dynamic Wireless Power Transfer (DWPT) technology. This system enables direct wireless transmission of energy between all the vehicles moving along the road, thereby changing the way electric vehicles operate. The induction coil infrastructure is installed beneath the road surface, with energy supplied by smart inverters that exchange real-time information.
Electric charging lanes can extend the travel range of electric vehicles and significantly reduce time spent on charging, contributing to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. However, the technology requires a significant infrastructure overhaul and raises questions about the fairness of charging drivers who do not have electric vehicles.
Smart Pavement Technology:
Kansas City startup, Integrated Roadways, has developed a technology called Smart Pavement. This technology serves as a real-time reporting system for weather, traffic, accidents, and road conditions. The high-resolution fiber optic sensors embedded in the pavement can detect vehicle positions and notify emergency responders automatically.
While smart pavement technology can greatly enhance road safety by providing real-time data about road conditions, traffic, and accidents, implementing the technology would require significant capital investment and disruption to current road networks.
Solar Road Paint:
The Smart Highway project introduces solar road paint that collects energy during the day and glows for up to 8 hours at night, thereby increasing road visibility and safety.
Solar road paint provides a sustainable lighting solution that reduces reliance on traditional street lights, but the durability of the paint is a concern. Its effectiveness could also be affected by the amount of sunlight it receives during the day.
Technologies that harvest energy from roads have the potential to power streetlights, signage, and traffic signals, or feed electricity back to the grid. These technologies utilize sunlight (solar roads) or mechanical vibrations from vehicles to generate electrical energy.
Energy-harvesting roads provide a sustainable way to power infrastructure like street lights, signage, and traffic signals. That being said, the initial investment for such systems may be high, and the return on investment might take a considerable amount of time, making it a big project that might be difficult to fund.
High-Speed Weigh-in-Motion (HS-WIM) Technology:
HS-WIM technology can dynamically weigh vehicles at high speeds, thereby reducing the need for slowing down or stopping. It records and displays gross vehicle weights, wheel-load weights, axle weights, and other parameters.
While the technology can increase efficiency and safety by automatically weighing vehicles without the need for them to stop or slow down, accuracy is a concern. Various factors, including the speed of the vehicle and environmental conditions could influence the accuracy and reliability of the weighing system.
Roads with Smart Wireless Digital Traffic Signs:
Smart roads are now equipped with digital and wirelessly enabled traffic signs. They broadcast the specific sign wirelessly to oncoming traffic, eliminating the need for drivers to look for signs while driving.
Smart wireless digital traffic signs can improve road safety by ensuring drivers are alerted to traffic signs in real-time and allow effective traffic control in any weather situation. However, implementation would require a major overhaul of the current infrastructure. Moreover, not all vehicles are equipped to receive and interpret these digital signals, creating potential inconsistencies.
Roads with Smart Traffic Violation Detection:
Smart roads introduce new traffic violation detection methods. Wireless digital traffic signs record successful notifications to drivers, providing evidence for any violations.
Smart traffic violation detection systems can enhance road safety and efficiency by providing evidence of violations, but it definitely cuts into privacy and data security, which are major concerns. There are also potential issues surrounding the accuracy and fairness of these systems.
Roads with V2X Communication:
Vehicular ad hoc networks and car-to-car communications are crucial for smart road capabilities. V2X communication allows cars and objects to exchange crucial information, enhancing safety for road users.
Although V2X communication can enhance road safety by facilitating real-time communication between vehicles and infrastructure, it requires widespread adoption to be effective, and there are potential privacy concerns surrounding the data shared between vehicles.
European projects like the Cooperative Intersection Safety and VRUITS are enhancing road intersection safety through sensors, V2I, mapping, and localization technologies.
These smart intersections can greatly enhance safety at what are traditionally high-risk traffic areas. Moreover, by utilizing sensors and communication technologies, these intersections can monitor and manage traffic more effectively. But a large amount of data would need to be processed in real-time for these systems to work effectively, requiring robust and reliable computing infrastructure. The cost of implementation may also be high.
Streetlights are being upgraded with various smart capabilities, such as Wi-Fi access points, motion activation, solar power, and data analytics.
These streetlights can contribute to energy efficiency and safety, and by providing Wi-Fi access points, they can also contribute to connected smart cities.
However, the issue once again comes down to a significant infrastructure overhaul. Data privacy and security could also be a concern with the Wi-Fi access points.