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"Smart Highways" will glow in the dark, plus a lot more


November 6, 2012

Dynamic Paint is one of the innovations planned for the Smart Highway project

Dynamic Paint is one of the innovations planned for the Smart Highway project

Image Gallery (6 images)

If you've ever wished that roads would do something instead of just lying there, a pair of Dutch design firms have the answer. Studio Roosegaarde and Heijmans Infrastructure are developing what they call a “Smart Highway.” It’s a roadway that incorporates a suite of interactive technologies that adapt to traffic conditions and provide motorists with valuable feedback.

The firms see the Smart Highway as less of a product than a laboratory to try out new technologies for the “Route 66 of the future.” Using a combination of sensors, smart paints and energy harvesting devices, it’s intended to be both interactive and largely self-powering. According to the firms, the Smart Highway will employ five new technologies that they see as available within five years.

One of these is “Dynamic Paint,” seen at the top of the page, which is temperature sensitive. Under normal road conditions, the paint remains transparent, but when temperatures drop enough to create hazards like black ice, it becomes visible and reveals warning symbols on the road.

Glow-in-the-Dark Road

Then there is the “Glow-in-the-Dark Road,” which is what it says on the box. It’s a road that uses luminescent paint that absorbs sunlight during the day and glows for up to ten hours at night to increase visibility and reduce the need for conventional road lighting.

Interactive Light

Another way to cut down on lighting is the “Interactive Light.” This uses sensors to detect an approaching car, at which point it switches on. The light grows brighter as the car comes near, then dims as it passes. In this way, the road is only lit when needed rather than pouring light on empty streets.

Wind Light

The “Wind Light” takes this a step further with pinwheel generators set in the verge like flowers. As cars pass, their draft generates electricity and the lights go on.

Induction Priority Lane

The Smart Highway also has an “Induction Priority Lane” for electric cars, with induction coils embedded under the tarmac to charge the cars as they drive along.

The Smart Highway was named Best Future Concept by the Dutch Design Awards 2012 and pieces of the design were unveiled at the Dutch Design Week in October on Strijp-S in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Studio Roosegaarde and Heijmans Infrastructure plan to have a prototype of the road operating sometime in 2013.

Source: Studio Roosegarde

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

In a word, brilliant. This will be a boon to safe driving everywhere that adopts it. Unfortunately, this will not include Australia who do not have road engineers or architects innovative enough to incorporate such a thing into our roads and who believe that it is better to slow the traffic rather than build better engineered and safer roads.


We've had glowing stickers, putty and just a whole bunch of stuff. This is one great idea thats long over due!! Please start working on this ASAP : )


I haven't felt excited about roads until now.

Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret

The Solar powered roads look pretty good, but Glass roads to laminate the solar cells? sounds iffy and more work than any city or state government may want to put into it. Glowing street markings would be cheaper. Now add solar panels to street lamps and make those lamps High Intensity Discharge LEDs and you have even better roads plus greener off grid electricity which would be free engery allowing for lower taxes in the states and towns they are used in, because they would be draining energy from the power grid, Con Ed. LIPA etc. H.I.D. Lamps would mean bright roads and less need for H.I.D. vehicle headlights which shine much too bright when seen from other vehicles in an oncomming direction.. Hopfully PPL from City and state Gov't see my Idea in this post...


You don't notice it much in a car, but others who ride motorcycles can attest to the huge traction difference between painted lines in the road and the road itself, especially when the paint is wet. My first concern is that the additional road paint would contribute to less traction than the pavement.

having the paint that is there already glow too isn't a bad idea if it is cheap enough.

My next comment is about lighting. Gargamoth mentions H.I.D. Lamps because HID headlights ruin your night vision but that is pretty much the same point I would make about HID streetlights.

I would prefer the opposite for street lights. Blue wavelength light tends to ruin night vision where light closer to the red spectrum is enough to illuminate objects without ruining night vision and makes less light pollution.

It is for this reason yellow low pressure sodium vapor lights are used in San Jose. They were placed there because of a a nearby observatory. I find it warmer and it doesn't hurt my night vision like white or blue light. It also used less power than traditional (halogen) street lamps.

Again a point more directed at the idea of HID street lamps than the article itself but an over abundance of super bright street lights making everything look like day light is a short sighted solution because when you DO have dark areas they are more dangerous than if the area before it were more dimly lit. You would have to add brighter lights to your car to deal with your reduced night vision which would even further blind other drivers.

I replaced my porch lights with yellow LED lights and I love it. I see more depth without "hot spots" in the way and they don't attract bugs. Now if I could just replace the street light near my house with sodium vapor and paint the lines in the road with glow in the dark paint :)


In order to reduce our dependence on gps satellites, smart roads could be furnished with marker pegs that broadcast their precise position.


@ Diachi

The other reason you find yourself preferring longer wavelength night illumination is that human eyes are, to put it bluntly, bags full of turbid jelly. And the older you get, the the cloudier the jelly gets. I don't know how old you are now, (I'm in my 50s) but I can just about guarantee that it's only going to get worse. Where the turbidity becomes important. is that it causes light scattering. Light from bright sources leaks into the dark parts of the visual field. And the amount of scattering is strongly wavelength dependent. (Strongly as in "proportional to the inverse 3rd power of the wavelength".)

In general, short wavelengths (blue, violet) interact more efficiently with the particles that cause the turbidity than longer ones (yellow, red). And these interactions inevitably mean scattering. (Which is to say, the re-radiated photon goes off in some other direction and either misses the retina (or other sensor) entirely or hits it somewhere other than where an un-deflected one would have, reducing image contrast.) This is closely related to the reason the sky is blue and infrared and radio telescopes can "see" what's going on inside nebulae. It's also the reason that those new-fangled blue-white and especially violet-white headlights cause so much worse disruption of oncoming drivers' ability to see pretty much anything but the headlights. If you look closely, you may notice that the blue/violet light is preferentially what's illuminating the dark parts of your visual field.

For more info, look up the Wikipedia article on "Rayleigh Scattering"

Light much shorter than blue is also disadvantageous for illumination for another reason: the human eye just doesn't focus it as well as it does longer wavelength light. I don't much like the idea of HID streetlights, either. How about ones made from arrays of those jumbo yellow LEDs that Radio Shack used to sell?

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