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Are we ready for the smart highway?

Most drivers will have complaints about the quality of roads we drive on. Potholes seem to be an ever increasing problem and the rising incidence of damage to springs and other suspension and steering components would testify to this. Poorly finished and worn out roads also mean more road works and UK drivers are all too familiar with the miles of traffic cones and traffic jams caused by resurfacing work.

Most drivers will have complaints about the quality of roads we drive on. Potholes seem to be an ever increasing problem and the rising incidence of damage to springs and other suspension and steering components would testify to this. Poorly finished and worn out roads also mean more road works and UK drivers are all too familiar with the miles of traffic cones and traffic jams caused by resurfacing work. Many of us though never consider the actual road itself. Whereas cars have changed beyond all recognition in the last 100 years, roads have barely changed at all. Now some Dutch inventors are looking to change all of that.

Daan Roosegaarde is an artist who specialises in interactive installation art and his business partner, Hans Goris, works for a civil engineering firm in Holland. On the face of it, their work could not be more different. Roosegaarde's past projects include a dance floor which lights up according to how people are dancing on it and a dress which can become transparent. Goris on the other hand has worked on projects like designing car parks and shopping centres. Now though, the pair have come together to design something that they feel will revolutionise transport: interactive roads.

It is not quite as unlikely as it seems. One of the features of the 'smart highways' they propose is glow in the dark lane markings and signage. The system would use paint enriched with crystals which store the sun's energy during the day and then glow for up to 10 hours a night, greatly increasing visibility of road markings and improving safety for drivers. Another enhancement is temperature sensitive paint. Here the road markings would respond to temperature changes. When the surface temperature drops to around freezing, a large snowflake design becomes visible on the road, warning drivers of the possibility of ice on the carriageway.

A final idea sounds a little more farfetched. This involves something they are calling an 'induction priority lane'. This would contain built-in coils which would have the ability to recharge electric cars as they passed over the surface, something which would address the thorny problem of the extremely limited range of these cars. Although these ideas might seem like something out of a science fiction novel, they are not as unlikely as they may sound. The glow in the dark and temperature sensitive paint already exists and is being trialled by the Dutch pair. Even the idea of the induction loop road lane is not new. It is already being used to power a cable free tram network in Bordeaux.
 

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