Duo looks to innovate motorway design

12.00 | 1 May 2013 | | 4 comments

In an attempt to warn motorists of potentially hazardous road/weather conditions, a Dutch pairing has invented self-illuminating weather warning signs that can be painted onto roads (BBC News).

Daan Roosegaarde, an artist famous for ‘wacky’ interactive projects, and Hans Goris, a manager at the Dutch civil engineering firm Heijmans, have also designed a lane capable of recharging electric cars on the go.

The ‘unlikely’ duo believes their smart highway concept has the potential to revolutionise motorways.

The project is dubbed ‘Route 66 of the future’ – a nod towards the US highway which connected Chicago and Los Angeles in the 1920s. Decommissioned in the 1980s, the route also serves as a warning of what can happen if infrastructure fails to move with the times.

Mr Roosegaarde said: “I was completely amazed that we somehow spend billions on the design and R&D of cars but somehow the roads – which actually determine the way our landscape looks like – are completely immune to that process. They are still stuck in the Middle Ages, so to speak.”

One of the innovations involves painting road markings with glow-in-the-dark paint. The idea is that a ‘photo-luminising’ powder, contained in the substance, would charge up in the daytime and then slowly release a green glow at night, doing away with the need for lamps.

Mr Roosegaarde added: “When we started this project [Heijmans] was working on an energy-neutral street light, trying to work with solar panels and things like that.

“I thought that was updating an old idea, and I forced them to look at movies of jellyfish. How does a jellyfish give light? It has no solar panel, it has no energy bill.

“And then we went back to the drawing board and came up with these paints which charge up in the daytime and give light at night.”

The two men also plan to use another temperature-sensitive paint mixture to create giant snow flake-shaped warning signs on the roads.

The patterns should glow when sections of the tarmac become cold, warning that they may have iced over and become slippery.

According to the BBC News report, tests have already been carried out on wood-based mocked-up sections of motorway in Mr Roosegaarde’s studio.

Heijmans now plans to fund an outdoors trial on a strip of road at Brabant, near the Dutch border with Belgium, later this year.

The two men also advocate more costly updates. One involves creating an ‘induction priority lane’ containing built-in coils capable of recharging electric cars as they pass overhead.

Mr Goris says: “If you’re able to recharge vehicles while driving you can limit the amount of batteries or extend the range that they have.

“I don’t foresee that every motorway in Holland will have a third or second lane available with coils that charge your vehicle, but at specific locations you could think of it.”

Click here to read the full BBC News report.


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    How about adding lumious powder to cycle tyre compounds making cyclists stand out more to other road users at night? Or using it in road lining on unlit areas of road?

    Dave, Leeds
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    I think this idea is nothing short of a worthless gimmick. A far better idea is to spend more money on re-installing life saving devices such as cat’s eyes. Not everybody drives a modern disposable vehicle with HID headlights.

    Phil, Kent
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    I applaud their innovation. These ideas seem gimmicky. But they have a good point that motor vehicle design advances almost weekly, whilst road design appears to be stuck in the 1970s.

    Steve, Merseyside
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    Perhaps we could start by painting all the potholes with luminous paint…

    Seriously though the issue is not that motorists are unaware of the weather conditions it’s that they either don’t know how to drive appropriately or they choose not to.

    Having seen idiots (and I use the term advisedly) tailgating at speeds well above the legal limit in heavy rain and snow on the M1 where visibility was down to 10s of metres and grip was much reduced I don’t believe that informing them it was raining or snowing would have made much difference to their behaviour.

    Dave, Leeds
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