Important news. A Smart Highway that glows in the dark will be constructed in the Netherlands during 2013. As such, its central and edging lines will be painted with foto-luminising powder. This will store enough energy from the sun during the day to glow for up to ten hours at night. The road surface will also have dynamic paint that will only become visible when the ambient temperature is low. As such, ice symbols will appear to warn motorists that the surface may be slippery. And that will only be the beginning. Later generations of Smart Highway will have interactive lights that will spring to life when vehicles approach them, then switch-off when the road is empty. Why? To save power and lower running costs. This will complement wind lights that resemble small windmills. These will be powered via the breeze from passing traffic. Finally, induction priority lanes will have coils under their surfaces to charge electric cars.
Designer and innovator Daan Roosegaarde and Heijmans Infrastructure showed-off their Smart Highway during Dutch Design Week. Here, unsurprisingly, it claimed the “Best Future Concept” Award. And quite right too. This is a proposition that could save thousands of lives. It could be as significant as Percy Shaw's Cat's Eye. Why? Because poor visibility has caused thousands of accidents worldwide. Every experienced motorist, after all, has struggled to pick safe routes through poorly lit roads. Under these circumstances, the odd flash from faded white lines can be the only guide. So … anything that improves night time visibility gets my vote. Let us hope the glow in the dark foto-luminising powder work as predicted. The dynamic paint that will show the ice icons might reduce accidents too - although most new vehicles have built-in ice warnings.
The Smart Highway also highlights an important issue. If we – as motorists of the United Kingdom - want to reduce road deaths we cannot only reply on manufacturers to build safer cars. We need a holistic approach. Clearly, the Smart Highway could be a significant step forward ... but that is our future (perhaps). Short of this, simply maintaining the current network to a higher standard could help. Improvements such as brighter white lines, better lighting, and superior drainage could have a significant effect. Whereas this would be expensive it could also create employment which could boost the economy. Plus, it is not free to do nothing. After all accident victims might require help from the Police, Fire, and Ambulance Services plus the National Health service. All, of course, at the expense of tax payers. And that is on top of the infrastructure repairs. Road safety could also be improved by developing motorists' skills behind the wheel. How many can control over-steer, for example? How many know what it is? Roll on the “Smart Highway”.
By Stephen Turvil
Wed, 16 Jan 2013