Highway to the future

The groundbreaking project Smart Highway has gained worldwide interest. The Sustainable Cities Round Table talks in advance of Department of Design, attended by Daan Roosegaarde and South-African and Dutch infrastructure experts, has shown that new highway concepts concerning safety, durability and weather resistance in South Africa are important yet complicate innovations with global applications.

However, by taking steps towards more sustainable and interactive roads by using light, energy and road signs, traffic situations will get better, while driving a ‘‘smart and sexy’’ highway.

Driving is becoming more and more an experience instead of a means of transport. How come our infrastructure hasn’t yet contributed to the, ‘‘It’s about the journey, not the destination,’’ motto? As Roosegaarde states in the New York Times: ‘‘Everything’s changed but our highways.’’ Studio Roosegaarde challenged this issue with a surprising partnership, teaming up with the Dutch infrastructure developer Heijmans, and developing in the futuristic Smart Highway.

The Smart Highway confirms a link between ideology and technology using designs, innovating the road as we know it by focusing on energy saving, smart lighting, environmental interactivity and sustainability.

The ‘Interactive light’ and ‘Glowing Lines’ designs tackle energy waste problems. The interactive illumination only lights up when drivers pass by, creating an interactive energy-saving type of road lightning. ‘‘These are all ideas which aren’t super high-tech, they’re basic principles which we can implement into existing roads,’’ says Roosegaarde in a CNN interview.

The Glow-in-the-dark roads use solar energy to give them a cool green glow. Using special photo-luminising powder, they charge up from the power of sunlight by day, to illuminate the contours of the road at night –for up to 10 hours.

By anticipating an increase in the number of electric car drivers, the ‘Electric Priority Lane’ offers drivers the possibility to recharge their car with electricity by reusing generated energy in the road deck. Drivers will also be able to stay connected to Wifi and Bluetooth.

Another Smart Highway project ‘Dynamic Paint’ focusses on environmental awareness, offering the driver relevant and up-to-date traffic information about weather conditions. These designs offer interaction with the driver as well as with nature.

Find out more about the link between ideology and technology trough design at the Department of Design from the 8th until the 27th of July.