Our cars are getting smarter every day--but can we say the same about our roads? Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde believes there is a wealth of untapped energy and potential right beneath our wheels. Winner in the prestigious INDEX: Award 2013 Community Category, Roosegaarde's ‘Smart Highway’ concept modernizes European roadways into interactive experiences that pave the way towards environmental sustainability and greater public safety.
Designed in collaboration with Heijmans Infrastructure, a Dutch multinational development company, Smart Highway aims to retrofit highways with innovative technology that can visually communicate dangerous road conditions and traffic pattern disruptions, charge electric cars on the go, and even generate energy to power its own lighting. Using glow-in-the-dark paint treated with photo-luminizing powder, these roadway strips recharge by daylight and can illuminate roads for up to ten hours at night, reducing the need for auxiliary lighting.
The embedded technology integrates aesthetic appeal with functionality, adding a layer of beauty that’s often passed over in highway design. To indicate icy and slippery conditions, for instance, freezing temperatures would activate a technology called ‘Dynamic Paint’ to cover roads with a swath of large, brightly lit snowflakes. Additional smart sensors would also cut down on energy use, such as wind- or motion-activated lights.
Smart Highway will invest part of the €100,000 award to secure artistic quality and engineering studies to concretize the concept into a sustainable and cost-effective reality. In addition to a wide-sweeping communications campaign to raise awareness, part of the funds will be applied to a greater exploration of the Smart Highway’s potential applications in other areas such as bicycle lanes and airport landings. Lastly, a special pilot program will be tested in a third world country to show how these new “landmarks of light” can be flexibly applied to improve the lives of many through safer, energy neutral landscapes.