Solar roadways, 'Internet of Things' to shape highways of the future

Posted on December 4, 2014

Future highways will be made from solar materials and will be governed by sophisticated technologies that communicate with cars, road infrastructure and GPS systems, according to a new report.

Arup’s Future of Highways report considers the consequences of themes including rapid urbanisation up to 2050 and how climate change, resource depletion and changes in human behaviour will shape our roads in the future.

INFOGRAPHIC: Future_of_Highways_infographic

“Anticipating and researching future trends will help us move towards a connected, low-carbon future, where mobility solutions put users at the heart of design and potential challenges are addressed as early as possible. The changes that this report suggests will provide safer, more reliable and more environmentally friendly highway infrastructure for generations to come," says Tony Marshall, Global Highways Leader, Arup

Surfaces could be replaced with advanced solar panels that would generate clean and renewable power, and wirelessly charge electric cars as they are driving or are parked. The panels would also contain LED lighting and heating elements to melt snow.

As well as highways evolving, the report foresees that patterns of ownership will change in the coming years, with commuters more likely to purchase access to a vehicle rather than the vehicle itself. While the number of motorized vehicles on our roads is expected to increase by three per cent annually until 2030, the use of non-motorized transport such as bikes and walking is also due to rise in popularity. Cities worldwide have already recognised this trend and have started to implement strategies to reduce congestion and support the health of their citizens through various cycle and walking schemes.

RELATED: 'Connected' Vehicle Testing Aims to Bolster Bus Safety

Electric cars are anticipated to become commonplace on the roads of the future as developments in material science will dramatically improve the performance of batteries and the potential for increased electricity storage. Fully-automated navigation systems will also enable roads to be populated by driverless cars which could change the design and operation of highways, and provide safety and environmental benefits.

VIDEO: Google self driving car test

Vehicles will become increasingly ‘intelligent’ and ‘self-aware’: a combination of the connected vehicle and the Internet of Things will enable vehicles to broadcast and receive information on traffic, speed, weather and potential safety hazards.  As a result, cars will be able to travel closer together and react more quickly to variables around them. This will open the market to people previously unable to operate vehicles such as the elderly or disabled.

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