We recently ran a poll on Twitter where we asked our audience whether they felt that developments lay with smart roads, or the skies; based upon Cnet’s helicopter car predictions and Tesla’s latest space project.
As you can see 88% of people voted roads, so we started to investigate which smart roads are currently in development and how the humble road could possibly get any better. Which is where we found the following concepts:
Solar Roadway Smart Roads
Originally brought to the public’s attention back in 2014, Julie and Scott Brusaw’s company Solar Roadways launched the first of it’s kind with a Kickstarter campaign where they showcased their prototype; a modular system of solar panels that have been specially engineered so that you can drive, park and walk over the panels without causing them any damage. In addition to being resistant to wear and tear they’re also backlit, have heating elements and are suitable for all weather conditions.
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MacRebur’s Recycled Plastic Roads
It’s no secret that the use of plastic is destroying the environment; each year there is enough plastic thrown away to circle the earth four times. But considering Earth’s plastic use shows no signs of slowing Toby McCartney, a British Engineer, created an ingenious new way to make use of the harmful material with the financial backing of Sir Andy Murray and Sir Richard Branson.
Currently, typical roads are made with around 90% rock and sand with 10% bitumen. However, Toby was inspired upon seeing locals in India filling potholes with plastic and as a result developed his own version; MacReburs. MacReburs is an innovative company which uses recycled bottles to make plastic pellets which then go on to replace a percentage of crude oil-based asphalt in the pavement. By making roads last 10x longer and supposedly up to 60% stronger, it’s a futuristic look at how roads can improve whilst tackling a huge waste plastic problem.
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Wireless Roadside Sensors
From parking sensors to cruise-control, sensors have been integrated into vehicles for the past few years, but now companies are looking at integrating them into the roadside to help with automated driving. It sounds like something from a distant future, but the coinciding of the development of 5G will be incredibly helpful with the development of driverless vehicles, which currently use a variety of sensors including LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) cameras and radar to help guide them.
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Developed by scientists with an organic bacteria; self-healing concrete (otherwise known as bio concrete) is one of the smartest designs for roads. It’s created by mixing together a bacteria called Bacillus Pseudofirmus (or Sporosarcina Pasteurii) and provides the ability for concrete the heal itself without the need for construction. This happens by mixing regular concrete with bacillus bacteria and an organic nutrient called calcium lactate.
The result is something which can lay dormant for up to 200 years after construction, just waiting to be activated. The chemical process which triggers the concrete to begin healing is activated by the introduction of water. The bacteria in the concrete lays dormant until the concrete begins to age and crack and then when it rains, or is sprayed with water, the water seeps into the cracks activating the bacteria inside. The bacteria’s chemical reaction will then begin, producing limestone to naturally fill the cracks which have developed. This process can take up to three . The process requires the bacteria to lay dormant for a while, but once activated it only takes around three weeks to fix cracks entirely.
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Roads Which Charge Cars As They Go
You only have to look at recent developments to see that the automotive industry is incredibly invested in the development of electric cars. But one of the setbacks companies keep facing is the charging times of vehicles. Not just by the range which electric vehicles have (Tesla’s model S has a range of up to 294 miles, whereas the Nissan Leaf has a range of up to 84 miles) but by how many charging stations there are across the UK. You see, not every fuel station is equipped with the facilities required to refuel an electric car and so you often have to prepare your journey route in advance to ensure that you can recharge as and when needed. But if roads which charge electric vehicles whilst in motion were invented, this would eradicate that setback.
This particular type of road is currently in the testing stages and the way it works is by embedding metal coils into the asphalt, ensuring that they are spaced one-foot apart from one another. This creates an electromagnetic field which transmits energy from a receiver, to the vehicle’s battery. Results from current tests show that the roads are able to transmit around 20 kilowatts of energy to cars travelling 75 mph.
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