Transportation needs to be more efficient in order to save money. How can transportation be improved using new technology? There are smart highways. But what are they and are they practical?

A smart highway is an equipped roadway with sensing devices and computing equipment so as to permit instantaneous decision making that optimizes traffic flow. An example is a motorists can be diverted to other routes, entrances to main routes can be metered, speed limits can be adjusted, and the like. It was designed by Dutch designer daan roosegaarde. Its goal is to make roads more sustainable, safe and interactive for both drivers and constructors. The road consists of interactive lights.

Whenever a car passes by a sensor the light goes on and then dims once the car is gone. The creator claims “‘we live in a city of endless gray concrete roads, surrounded by steel lamps. They have a huge visual impact on our city. But why do they remain so rough and without imagination? Why not make them a vision about mobility, a symbol of the future?” The side lines will be painted with luminescent paint. The lines will charge during the day and glow during the night. The paint will provide lighting for 10 hours during the night. This will allow street lights to be taken down. Also, there will be a large amount of tiny wind mills that will light up when a car drives by using wind energy. All of these ways are to help reduce the need for street lights.

Another idea is to use dynamic paint which will become visible in specific situations. A temperature-sensitive ingredient in this paint mix responds to cold by lighting up in phosphorus white as giant snowflakes. This will communicate beware to the drivers that they are driving on ice roads. Another feature is that there is an electric priority lane. Where electric cars can go on it and the road will charge your car.

All of these are good ideas however, are they practical? Having lights that light up and dim will reduce the car’s ability to see farther ahead in case of an emergency. This may cause more accidents. Also, they will need to be constantly checked and maintained because if there is a malfunction it may cause accidents. The luminescent paint may not be enough light and the time it will provide light may not be enough. The wind mills will not provide light for stopped cars which can cause a problem. Also, is the price worth the benefit of reduced street lights? The electric lanes will make a difference, people will have more of an incentive to buy electric cars. However, currently only a few percentage of people have electric cars.

Another idea could be LED lights for street lights. There was a study done by the Minnesota Department of Transportation Research Services which states that in order for to meet a five-year cost payback, low-level induction and LED lights would need to have a price premium of less than $330, and high-level LEDs would need a price premium of less than $350. While the products that provided adequate light levels generally failed to meet those price standards, costs are decreasing quickly, and the technology may be cost-effective in the near future. So LED lights make more sense for energy improvements in the future rather than the smart highway. The smart highway will be possible but farther in the future.