If you've ever wished that roads would do something instead of just lying there, a pair of Dutch design firms have the answer. Studio Roosegaarde and Heijmans Infrastructure are developing what they call a “Smart Highway.” It’s a roadway that incorporates a suite of interactive technologies that adapt to traffic conditions and provide motorists with valuable feedback.

The firms see the Smart Highway as less of a product than a laboratory to try out new technologies for the “Route 66 of the future.” Using a combination of sensors, smart paints and energy harvesting devices, it’s intended to be both interactive and largely self-powering. According to the firms, the Smart Highway will employ five new technologies that they see as available within five years.

One of these is “Dynamic Paint,” seen at the top of the page, which is temperature sensitive. Under normal road conditions, the paint remains transparent, but when temperatures drop enough to create hazards like black ice, it becomes visible and reveals warning symbols on the road.

Glow-in-the-Dark Road

Then there is the “Glow-in-the-Dark Road,” which is what it says on the box. It’s a road that uses luminescent paint that absorbs sunlight during the day and glows for up to ten hours at night to increase visibility and reduce the need for conventional road lighting.

Interactive Light

Another way to cut down on lighting is the “Interactive Light.” This uses sensors to detect an approaching car, at which point it switches on. The light grows brighter as the car comes near, then dims as it passes. In this way, the road is only lit when needed rather than pouring light on empty streets.

Wind Light

The “Wind Light” takes this a step further with pinwheel generators set in the verge like flowers. As cars pass, their draft generates electricity and the lights go on.

Induction Priority Lane

The Smart Highway also has an “Induction Priority Lane” for electric cars, with induction coils embedded under the tarmac to charge the cars as they drive along.

The Smart Highway was named Best Future Concept by the Dutch Design Awards 2012 and pieces of the design were unveiled at the Dutch Design Week in October on Strijp-S in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Studio Roosegaarde and Heijmans Infrastructure plan to have a prototype of the road operating sometime in 2013.

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