Find by category:

Exhaust Notes

‘Smart Highway’ concept glows in the dark, generates energy

Dutch designers' road lights up and captures wind energy from passing cars. U.S. engineers have some tricks of their own.

By Douglas Newcomb Nov 8, 2012 11:45AM

By now, you've heard how smart cars can talk to each other in traffic. Next up are smart roads that use embedded sensors, innovative paints and energy-harvesting devices that can provide real-time feedback on driving conditions -- and possibly power  your next car. 

The first Smart Highway prototype is already being planned in the Netherlands and should be ready as early as 2013, according to its creators at the Dutch design firms Studio Roosegaarde and Heijmans Infrastructure.


The pair won Best Future Concept in the Dutch Design Awards 2012, and they say that several of the technologies may be ready to hit a highway near you in the next five years. Here’s what to expect.


Glow-in-the-dark road
Road markings use luminescent paint, pictured above, that absorbs sunlight and can glow for up to 10 hours after dark, reducing the need for conventional lighting.


Dynamic paint
A temperature-sensitive paint remains invisible to the motorist until the mercury drops below freezing, when more hazardous driving conditions usually occur. Images appear in the road to alert drivers to conditions such as snow or black ice.



Interactive light
This energy-saving and environmentally sensitive system will keep a roadway in the dark until sensors detect an approaching vehicle.  As the car passes, lights will grow brighter to provide illumination and then fade to black again when not in need.  Besides the safety benefit of lighting a lonely road, this technology will cut down on excessive light pollution.



Wind light
Remember sticking a pinwheel out the car window as a kid and watching the petals spin? This technology places hundreds upon thousands of pinwheels alongside roadways to capture the draft generated by moving vehicles, which theoretically could generate enough electricity to light a highway.



Induction priority lane
Induction coils are embedded into an electric-car priority lane that will charge the vehicles as they roll along, extending the battery range of EVs.



With wintry weather already here thanks to an early snowfall in the Northeast, we’ve also seen innovative roadway concepts in the United States that cut down on plowing. Idaho-based Solar Roadways has received a $100,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration to build a prototype road with photovoltaic panels encased in glass that can melt snow and ice more efficiently. In Massachusetts, at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, associate professor Rajib Mallick received funding from the National Science Foundation for a design that uses heat-absorbing asphalt to keep roads clear of snow, slush and ice.


Solar Roadways says its glass highway would not only be snow-free in winter, but could also power embedded road signs. But at $6,900 a panel, the technology could be cost-prohibitive. Mallick's concept eschews expensive solar panels for fluid-filled pipes that are heated in warm weather and stored in insulated chambers. He estimates that the cost would be $12,500 for every 164 feet of pipe and that his heated road could pay for itself in six months.

[Source: Gizmag, Straightline]

Nov 13, 2012 3:10AM
And just how well do these so-called "smart" roads hold up when I start running my Peterbilt down them grossing over 100,000 pounds?
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
MSN Money


Cars are cool, and here at MSN Autos we love everything about them, but we also know they're more than simply speed and style: a car is an essential tool, a much-needed accessory to help you get through your day-to-day life. What you drive is also one of the most important investments you can make, so we'll help you navigate your way through the car buying and ownership experiences. We strive to be your daily destination for news, notes, tips and tricks from across the automotive world. So whether it's through original content from our world-class journalists or the latest buzz from the far corners of the Web, Exhaust Notes helps you make sense of your automotive world.

Have a story idea? Tip us off at