Constructing Sustainable Roads for a New World of Transport
Our urban transport is evolving at an exceptional pace. We are racing toward the acceptance and uptake of innovative technologies such as electric vehicles and autonomous cars. However, for this shift to be successful, we cannot leave our roads behind.
With the rapid advance of technology and the push for improved transportation solutions, what will the future of roads look like?
The challenges for roads of the future
Roads of the future, like roads of today, must be developed to be safe and viable for all road users. When cars were first driven, a man with a flag would walk ahead of them to warn pedestrians of their approach. Quickly, we adapted our roads to provide safe crossing points for those on foot.
As cars became faster, and trucks heavier, we constructed more robust road systems. As technology advanced, we provided a system of traffic lights and warning signs to regulate traffic flow. As bicycles have grown in popularity, we have developed cycleways.
Our roads have evolved as our transport and technology have. Often the technology used on the roads has been innovated in response to the evolution of our vehicles and road use. But how should we respond to progressive urban mobility?
Roads of the future need to be smart and sustainable. They should be able to provide a high-quality service for drivers. They should also have the capability to charge electric vehicles wirelessly, provide renewable energy throughout the network, and have intelligent road markings.
Future roads will need new transport infrastructure
Road networks have never remained constant. As we build a more environmentally friendly urban landscape, we need to make sure that roads are equipped with the necessary infrastructure for electric cars to charge, and that these roads can be powered by renewable energy sources.
Street signs, traffic lights, and traffic flow will be managed autonomously. Traffic and road data centers will collect information in real-time ─ information that will allow better management of the flow of traffic, reduce congestion, improve safety for all road users, and provide information about the health of tunnels and bridges.
Here are a few innovations that will shape the future of roads and highways.
Today’s cars can go on a journey of more than 600 miles without needing to refuel, so there is no need for service stations on every corner. There is a need for fewer and larger ones that are strategically placed along the routes to serve long-distance drivers.
In the future, we will need to provide more public charging points in our cities. On our highways, the explosion of EVs will mean more service stations, taking up a greater footprint. To reduce this need, we must focus on improving fast-charging technology.
Wireless recharging systems will be installed in roadside installations, car parks, and parking spaces, as well as in vehicles themselves. These systems will use renewable energy sources like solar power or wind power to charge electric vehicles wirelessly while they are parked or driving down the road.
Renewable energy throughout the road network
Future roads could be powered by renewable energy sources such as solar power or wind power. All street signage will be connected to its own power source.
Smart road markings
Road signage could become ‘smart’, altering to show instructions for changing road, weather, and traffic conditions. Why shouldn’t we have roads whose markings change autonomously to warn and direct traffic for obstructions ahead, instead of using traffic cones?
We’ll need to ensure that we design and build ‘connected roads’. What we mean here is connected digitally to other roads, to street ‘furniture’ (such as signage), and to the vehicles that use the roads. Roads will talk with cars. Cars will talk with other vehicles. The Internet of Things is here already and will be the technology that allows us to achieve this on a large scale.
Roads will incorporate a network of sensors, and these will be connected to data centers. As real-time information is processed, smart roads will adjust signage and digital instructions to autonomous vehicles, regulating speed, distance, and even the width of carriageways.
The future of roads is now
Roads are not just a means of transport. They are also the backbone of a country’s economy. Our future roads will need to be more sustainable. To make them so, we must consider the future of transport when planning and constructing our roads today.
At ACB Consulting, we are committed to helping improve the communities in which we live, work, and play – including how they are conceived, designed and created. To leverage our experience in sustainable design and construction, contact ACB Consulting.