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Dutch Design Futuristic Highway

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

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A futuristic highway that uses glow-in-the-dark, solar-powered paint to light up the road at night and warn drivers of treacherous conditions could change the future of travel for Dutch drivers as early as mid-2013.

The Smart Highway—designed by Studio Roosegaarde and infrastructure management group Heijmans—is an interactive and sustainable road that replaces road markings with a foto-luminising powder that makes extra lighting unnecessary.

The Smart Highway, which won Best Future Concept at the Dutch Design Awards, is set to be built in the Dutch province of Brabant in mid-2013.

Photos: Studio Roosegaarde

A highway that uses glow-in-the-dark paint to light up the road and warn drivers about treacherous conditions could hit the Netherlands in mid-2013.

The Dutch Design Awards offer a yearly platform for designers to show and/or find solutions for social and economic issues.

'Route 66 of the Future'

This year's first installment of the glow-in-the-dark road will be followed by priority induction lanes for electric vehicles, interactive lights that switch on as cars pass, and wind-powered lights within the next five years, the design company said.

"One day I was sitting in my car in the Netherlands, and I was amazed by these roads we spend millions on but no one seems to care what they look like and how they behave," Daan Roosegaarde of Studio Roosegaarde told Wired UK.

"I started imagining this Route 66 of the future where technology jumps out of the computer screen and becomes part of us."

Glow-in-the-dark roads will be treated with a special foto-luminising powder that charges by daylight, allowing the road to stay illuminated for up to 10 hours at night.

"It's like the glow in the dark paint you and I had when we were children. But we teamed up with a paint manufacturer and pushed the development. Now, it's almost radioactive," said Roosegaarde.

Smart Highways also feature Dynamic Paint, which becomes visible in response to temperature fluctuations, enabling the surface of the road to communicate traffic information directly to drivers. For example, the company says that ice crystals become visible on the surface of a cold and slippery road.

The idea is to develop more sustainable ways of illuminating roads as well as rethinking the design of highways as vehicle design continues to evolve. According to Studio Roosegaarde, connecting cars to navigational systems is only half of future road management, and the roads themselves need to fulfill the other half by providing useful, intelligent information to drivers.

Wind, Electricity and Beyond

The goal of Smart Highways is to make roads that use light, energy and road signs that automatically adapt to the traffic situation, according to the design company.

Studio Roosegaarde is also planning on including interactive lights and lanes that can charge an electric car while it drives.

The studio has around 20 ideas that it hopes to incorporate into the futuristic highways one day. The designs include interactive lights that come on when a car approaches and then dim once it has passed, wind-powered lights, and a lane with special coils under the surface that can charge an electric car while it drives.

Roosegaarde also hopes to take the designs to the West Coast of the U.S.

"It amazes me that most innovation in the West Coast is screen-based—I always imagined that technology jumping out of our screens and becoming part of our environment," Roosegaarde said.

"It's incredibly important we keep imagining what our reality is going to look [like]. A lot of people have told me along the way that what I wanted could not be done, and it's my job to prove them wrong."


Tagged categories: Awards and honors; Bridges; Coatings technology; Research; Roads/Highways

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