Intelligent Roadways Pave Way To The Future

smart roadway with illuminated tiles

The idea of a road is relatively simple – a durable path from point A to point B. Development of roadways usable for wheeled carriages has been perfected over the centuries. The Romans, for instance, used a base layer of crushed limestone that would let water flow out, preventing clay soil from turning into mud. Some Roman roads were topped with six sided capstones, also known as pavers, many of which still exist today.

The invention of the horseless carriage necessitated roadways that could be used at high speeds. Tarmac, asphalt and concrete roads followed, and thus ends our short venture into the history of roads. Roadways simply haven’t changed much since then. Sure, we’ve painted some lines on them, even etched grooves in some to prevent accidents, but the core technology of the road is the same as it was a hundred years ago. Until now. Consider the Intelligent Roadway.

[Scott] is an electrical engineer, and had dreamed of solar powered roadways as a child. But it wasn’t until the realization of global warming did [Scott] and his wife, [Julie] start to take the concept seriously. Stick around after the break to find out just how smart [Scott's] roadway of the future is.

 

[Scott's] intelligent roadway consists of a six-sided modular design. Each module is topped with a heavy duty textured, tempered glass that can support up to 250,000 pounds. There are solar cells in them of course, and provide the mechanism for these expensive devices to pay for themselves. They have already caught the attention of the Federal Highway Administration, General Electric, and even Google. If their Indiegogo campaign is successful, they will be able to test their concept in a few parking lots.

 

smart road tiles melting snow

 

The modular smart panels have a lot more than solar cells and glass. There’s integrated heaters to melt away snow and ice, pictured above. 128 LEDs allow for the panels to paint lines and words on the intelligent roadway, providing near countless uses and benefits. On a large scale, the smart road will create enough electricity to become a decentralized power grid, and provide a means of getting WiFi and fiber optic lines to rural places.

It’s difficult to find a reason why we should not employ this technology. Let us know in the comments what you think about this future of roadways.

Comments

  1. Brandon says:

    It would be interesting to combine this with piezoelectrics to generate from motion, vibration, and temperature as well.

    • That’s not free, though.

      Plus, there’s a downside — people will find even familiar roads unfamiliar, decreasing driving confidence and safety

      • rj says:

        Turns out, the more confident you are when driving, the less safe of a driver you are. (Greater confidence is nothing more than greater trust that something unexpected won’t happen.)

        The only safe driver is a paranoid one.

        • Oh so those 18 – 25 yr old Females that panic in cars and accelerate into stationary traffic or stop in the middle of a cross section and cause massive collisions or the ones are scared to indicate so they don’t and end up with Write offs.

  2. nicohood says:

    This sounds very cool and usefull :)

  3. medix says:

    What happens to traction when it rains?

    This is gonna be hell when wet..

    • Tom says:

      RTFA

      • medix says:

        You missed the point: wet glass = almost no traction.

        Ever fallen on your ass on a wet tile floor?

        You don’t have to read an article to figure that out. After browsing the page, I can find no mention of texturing or other method to improve an otherwise smooth surface. Furthermore, the last time I checked, you can’t add too much texture (if any) to tempered glass, otherwise you’ll provide stress concentrations where cracks can nucleate under heavy load.

        • Thomas says:

          They’ve done traction testing, per the video.

          I’m assuming the results were favourable enough to continue development.

        • nitePhyyre says:

          You couldn’t find any mention of texturing? Really? None at all?

          Literally the first sentence describing the product is: “Each module is topped with a heavy duty textured, tempered glass that can support up to 250,000 pounds.”

          So did you not bother to read and you just lied when you said you did, or, are you simply illiterate?

          • neobyte says:

            Traction is static friction. What you described is weight capacity. Those are two totally different things.

    • Alex Wagner says:

      From the Solar Roadways FAQ page (http://www.solarroadways.com/faq.shtml#faqTraction):

      What are you going to do about traction? What’s going to happen to the surface of the Solar Roadways when it rains>

      Everyone naturally pictures sliding out of control on a smooth piece of wet glass! Actually, one of our many technical specs is that it be textured to the point that it provides at least the traction that current asphalt roads offer – even in the rain. We hesitate to even call it glass, as it is far from a traditional window pane, but glass is what it is, so glass is what we must call it.

      We sent samples of textured glass to a university civil engineering lab for traction testing. We started off being able to stop a car going 40 mph on a wet surface in the required distance. We designed a more and more aggressive surface pattern until we got a call form the lab one day: we’d torn the boot off of the British Pendulum Testing apparatus! We backed off a little and ended up with a texture that can stop a vehicle going 80 mph in the required distance.

    • John B says:

      “Textured glass” might not be so bad.

    • musashiaharon says:

      How about calling it a “special formulation of tempered sand”?

  4. rasz_pl says:

    Thats cute and all, but creators must be living in LALA land.
    Nobody does this because of Price.

    Not to mention why would you want to route fiber and power from tile to tile? 2 connectors every 50cm? sure sign me up! sure beats dedicated cable trench …

    • medix says:

      Heh.. the cost of connecterization alone will kill the project.

      • cc says:

        I think a trimmed down version with just the solar power aspect could be good for the top levels of car parks, pavements.

        Not so much roads.

        • medix says:

          I’ll drink to that. I could see the development of a roofing material that was cheap (well, cheaper than current panels, etc) but putting these on roads seems a bit far-fetched, especially if you’re gonna have cars parked on them all day.

        • Z00111111 says:

          Problem is that when you park a car on it, it stops gathering power.

          It’ll cost WAAAY too much for anyone to bother implementing it as more than a gimmick. It’d probably be much cheaper to build a normal road, then build a roof over the road covered in conventional solar panels.

          • cc says:

            true, additionally a roof over the road would remove the need for heating to remove snow.

    • Alexander says:

      If you watch the decidedly 90’s video, you’ll see that there’s a trench or channel underneath the roadway.

    • If *real* price was actually a consideration, solutions like this and others would have been implemented years ago. The problem is that people don’t consider the full price of the status quo. What is the price of gas? If your answer is what it shows at the pump, then you’re part of the problem.

      But even for those who don’t accept that, there is the price of short-term thinking. Not far from where I live is a large span of road where repairs have happened every couple years. Why? Because instead of using materials that would last far longer, they went for the lowest bidder. So if you just look at the costs through a small span of time, it looks inexpensive. When you zoom out and think about the 40-something years of repairs, it’s hugely expensive.

      I’m not necessarily advocating for these solar roadways. The basic idea sounds good, but it would take some serious real-world testing and a company with a long-term perspective and deep pockets (like a Google) to turn this into reality.

      • Dax says:

        No they wouldn’t, because if we had had to pay for the full price of fossil fuels up front, we would never even have developed automobiles because they would have simply been too expensive to run.

        And so we couldn’t have people dreaming of solar panel covered roads today. We’d be a totally different society, probably still stuck at the early industrial revolution level of technology with the only available sources of energy being the scarce sources of hydro power and wood.

        • Joshkins says:

          Fossil fuels like natural gas, coal, diesel and petrol cost what they do because its an approximation of the cost of extraction, processing, transportation, delivery and profit. I’m not sure what you mean by “real” cost other than ecological, and I think in that case you might have also not seen the benefits. Fossil fuels have rocketed us forward technologically. I dislike them as much as the next guy, but they have had a massive effect on human technology, and to ignore that and say the yet unknown effects(at least fully known effects) are a greater negative than the development of flight, the internet, assembly lines, space travel, and many other things are outweighed by the ecological effect is a bit short sighted.

          Admittedly though, we humans would burn the last tree down before someone shuts off an xbox or turns their thermostat down a few degrees, the only thing that will really stop fossil fuels as a widely used fuel will be its cost of extraction, and that might take a while to rise to levels where a hydrogen/electric/(insert new energy tech here) might take over.

    • steel_9 says:

      What if they have a tab system like you find on shop room tiles. they could put the fiber and wire connectors in the tabs, and the tiles would become connected as they were laid down. Or they could have connectors in a subfloor membrane

      • medix says:

        Still not feasible – coupling loss between fibers will kill any signal within a few tiles. Typical fiber losses are rated in dB / 100km – you’d be talking ore like dB / m here. You have to ensure that you line up each fiber core almost exactly (8 microns diameter) and keep it perfectly clean before, during, and after assembly.

  5. Waterjet says:

    “It’s difficult to find a reason why we should not employ this technology.”

    Uhh, cost seems like a gigantic reason.

  6. Dave M says:

    We can’t even get a slab of concrete to hold up more than a few years and they want this? I could only imagine what those potholes would be like.

  7. FredTheRanger says:

    one word: salt.

    • No need for salt with built in heaters

      • mainfr4me says:

        In concept, sure. But when you get multiple inches of snow in a single storm (plus blowing or drifting), it wouldn’t be hard to overpower these units. Plus – where does the water go when melted? Not a trivial thing to consider where that will go and eventually re-freeze.

        I could see this maybe working in areas where occasional snowfall/icing occurs, but once you get north into say Minnesota, the Daoktas, Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine, Washington, etc, where large snowfalls occur and long, deep freezes happen, the little heaters may not do enough.

        It’s a dream many midwesterners would love, but it’s a lot of energy to melt a sidewalk or driveways worth of snow and ice.

        • gannon says:

          We only got 338″ of snow this year…I’m disappointed :/

        • Taylorian says:

          yep, up here in the great white north, I see a lot of problems. Thermal expansion and contraction already play hell on our roads here. These things would have to be exceptionally forgiving of these stresses. One damn good snowstorm an blowing drifting snow at -20F and those little heaters will have to do triple duty to keep up, adding yet MORE thermal stress. If they could create ones with a uv stabilized plastic top layer (maybe an epoxy) they might have a snowballs chance in hell.

        • tekkieneet says:

          One of the problems with winter weather up North is that the melted snow turns into water and it gets the gap between tiles. Water expands when it turns into ice and the freeze thaw cycles just tend to make pothole on regular roads.

          Heaters don’t work in places that have lots of snow. Big snowplows and truck for snow removals actually are more energy efficient for that type of volume.

        • Ren says:

          I was born and raised in the Daoktas! B^)

        • DracoBengali86 says:

          I want to see what a snow plow does to these things. I’ve see nasty things happen to a regular road when a plow catches a piece of roadway, I can see it catching a corner and ripping the tile completely off the road, leaving a nice deep hole.

  8. If the road is generating billable power, I don’t think cost is a valid point until we know how much power is possible per unit

    • AKA the A says:

      Not that much, since there’s barely 1,5kW/m^2 of peak usable solar power at the equator, and the best photovoltaic panels are below 20% peak efficiency…

  9. Bogdan says:

    Aren’t solar panels one of the things that have really bad EROI? So it would make sense to put them on places where they get better light, like on tilted roofs?
    Wouldn’t something like this be better? http://wordlesstech.com/2011/06/13/16000-solar-panel-train-tunnel/

    • peter says:

      No, the EROI on solar panels is now less than five years. However, until we run out of rooftops I see no reason to be driving on them.

      • Ralph says:

        Maybe in Yuma, AZ, but in most of the world with average insolation levels, the ROI is upwards of 20years. In places where most of the power generation is from hydroelectric like Quebec, Canada, alternative energy has little effect on greenhouse gas emissions.
        The installed cost of PV (panels alone) is typically $1-$2/W (based on 1000W/m^2 peak). Power conversion or storage (batteries) is extra.
        Even in the US, there are many states where electricity is <10c/kWh (such as Washington) with insolation levels 40yrs.

        Solar does make economic sense in many more places when it comes to hot water (i.e. pool heating, car wash, domestic hot water, etc), There are commercially available solar water heating panels that achieve 80% efficiency, and most have >70% efficiency, but for PV it’s rare to see >25% efficiency.

      • Dax says:

        That’s not what EROI means, and ROI is also a completely different metric.

        EROI measures energy return on investment, while ROI is just return on investment.

        What all of you want is EROEI which is energy returned on energy invested, and that’s rather poor for solar energy in most places outside of the tropics.

        Ideally, solar power gives you an energy return of roughly 7:1 while coal typically gives you 80:1. This figure is important in terms of society because the lower the EROEI the less complex your society can be with more of the available energy spent in obtaining energy in the first place rather than maintaining complex infrastructure and high standards of living.

  10. “We are not yet able to give numbers on cost. We are still in the midst of our Phase II contract with the Federal Highway Administration and we’ll be analyzing our prototype costs near the end of our contract which ends in July, 2014. Afterward, we’ll be able to do a production-style cost analysis.”

    ‘We’ll send you a bill.’

    These guys recommend converting to an all-DC society.

    They also want to turn Parking areas into heated LED billboards.

    They claim the roadway will eliminate the need for coal power, while admitting powering the heated/illuminated/microprocessor-controlled pavers at night will simply draw from the grid. Added to the demand for electricity caused by converting to an all-EV society. And the line losses involved with transmitting DC around the country. And using parking lots as billboards.

    So, let’s be honest: power demand at night is going to double or triple its current level.

    And we don’t even save the cost of the old roads, because the pavers need them for a foundation anyway.

    This is not a revolution. Find something better.

    • adf says:

      I can’t see them explicitly advocating an all DC society, but as far as I know, that’s crazy talk.

    • Adam says:

      The idea isn’t to start mass-producing these and to cover all of the Earth’s roads. The idea is to sell these to a few places as a proof-of-concept, then refine the idea until we have what we need, nothing more, nothing less. These things are nowhere near done and as it is possible we’ll have graphene PV panels in <50 years, the entire technology could be different by the time they start rolling out.

  11. Sure, no reason at all why this wouldn’t be viable… Besides cost of manufacturing, cost of installation, durability of components, the short shelf life of modern electronics, the fact that hordes of people would steal the panels to rig up free home electricity, the threat of accidental electrocution, traction, and the fact that oils and grit would eventually cover every each of panel till the point that they would stop functioning (resulting in perpetual costs of road cleaning and constant road closures).

  12. Chad says:

    I think theft would be a reason this won’t fly. With solar cells and some smart chips of sorts and LEDs, who wouldn’t want one to hack? From a practical standpoint, asphalt is a moving medium. It’s very slow, but it moves. Solar cells need a rigid mounting surface, which a typical roadway can’t provide over time. Connections and waterproof-ness is another problem. With freeze and thaw, these things won’t survive in the north. They also won’t be able to provide nearly enough power to thaw themselves unless battery technology provides a 1000-fold energy holding capacity. Resistive heating uses tremendous amounts of power.

    It’s a very cool idea, but will be difficult to implement reliably.

  13. x3n0x says:

    Who is going to pay for all this? Kind of a neat idea but i have to agree with one of the previous posters: Somebody is living in LALA land…

  14. fartface says:

    I want to see what these do when a Plow truck goes over them with the blade being pressed down as hard as possible.

  15. fanuch says:

    I have a good friend who is doing honours in researching pipe installation under new roads as a means of heating water and collecting energy.

    • Leadcrayon says:

      I has thought about this back in high-school and it has more potential to be used in a dense City than the solar cells because they can still collect the radiant heat from vehicles on the road in the shade of the buildings as well as taking the waste heat for use in the hot-water supply for the buildings in the summer and can be run in reverse to help clear snow in conjunction with the plows

  16. Ixbidie says:

    Well, technically solar panels consist out of sand and VERY little bit of donator/aceptors. The Glas … sand as well. If you consider printing the logic and the traces out of polymer materials or carbon everything that’s left are the LEDs.

    Now even if you manage to produce the whole thing out of sand and carbon: how to transmit the energy generated by the solar panels? If the energy is passed between every module the resistance will catch ‘em all. So you have to pass the energy directly … maybe the cars driving on it? But that would mean to use at least one coil: and here we are again: copper.

    TL;DR regarding the scale of the vision it is not possible :/

    • tarclarke says:

      Carbon has the potential to be the main material used in transmitting power (e.g. carbon nanotubes). Think of this IndieGoGo campaign as funding the next step in something that could be done in the mid-term future rather than straight away.

      Should also point out that you wouldn’t need all roads to be converted to solar panels for this idea to work, could have patches of solar panels and patches of asphalt roads.

      • Adam says:

        Carbon has the potential to be the main material used in *everything*. If graphene and CNTs pan out within 50-ish years, the whole design could be improved massively.

  17. blue_dog says:

    Really like the idea, but isn’t it extremly expensive to build roads like that?

    Regardless of the technical point of view that would, in my opinion, simply be too expensive to build.

  18. cheapskate says:

    Fossil fuels are clean, efficient, cheap and reliable. Solar power is barely economically feasible out in the desert with bare solar panels, let alone on shaded roads in expensive little modules. The power they generate will barely break even with the onboard daylight-viewable LEDs and heating elements, let alone ever pay for themselves.

    Just another person’s attempt at cashing in on all the global-warming hype. Heck, the earth hasn’t even warmed up in the last decade or two.

    • Galane says:

      Actually been flat since 1998, with some decline the past few years. 1998 was the peak of a very active sunspot cycle and the cycle since has had almost as few sunspots as were seen during the Maunder Minimum. Naturally it’s been frigging cold in the winters with many thousands of new records set worldwide for low temps, high snowfall, and record low high temps – with a little smattering of record highs which the AGW crowd points to as “proof”. Nevermind the record highs are but tiny islands in an ocean of cooling off.

      Then there’s the constant blather about the “increasing number and strength” of tropical storms, tornadoes and other cyclonic weather events. I dunno why they bother when that BS is so easy to disprove by simply looking at the chaotic randomness of the actual numbers. For instance, in the USA from January through April 2014 the number of tornadoes was HALF the average of the past five years for the same time period (which means some years had many more) and 2013 itself was a low activity year. That most recent tornado flurry ended a streak of 159 days without a single EF3 or stronger tornado anywhere in the USA.

      Also have a look at the wimpy Atlantic hurricane seasons since 2005. One record year, “global warming”, activity mostly less than before 2005 since then, “global warming”.

      What about the record 1979 Pacific typhoon season and the largest tropical storm on record, typhoon Tip? At its peak it was nearly 3,000 MILES wide!

      But it matters not what chaos happens day to day with the weather, there’s always some BS explanation for it being due to human caused climate change.

    • twdarkflame says:

      “Solar power is barely economically feasible out in the desert with bare solar panels,”

      Not remotely true.
      Bog standard PV you can buy for your home right now last 20 years (mine are warrantied for 80% power after 25), and pay for themselves easily in less then 10.

      Mine will pay for themselves in 8, and thats without any subs or grants.

      Thinking solar power isnt economical these days is like looking at a Tesla and thinking electric cars are all still milk floats.

  19. Zane says:

    Its all fun and games until someone hacks a parking lot, or bits of roadway to play battletech; then its war. Life is cheap, Battlemechs are expensive.

  20. robomonkey says:

    Holy Crap…this thing does everything but slice bread…at least from what they’re telling us. Look if you really want to grab attention you DEMONSTRATE the product in action. They tell us they’ve been tested, but do not demonstrate any of the technology for the viewer to see the results.

    VAY-POR-WARE!

    And I agree with the sentiment about it being an attempt to “cash in” on the potential climate change that may or may not be going on. They tag every thing that is potentially wrong with the world, and their product and procedure can fix it.

    Oh, and last time I checked, storm water runoff is how the hydro cycle works…It’s not the reason for pollution, it just picks up what we use to fertilize the soil and clean the ground…

    These guys are in a state where pot is legal, right….cause I think they’re high.

  21. x3n0x says:

    Wouldn’t it be less expensive to create HUDS and augmented reality displays for cars? Then, the HUD or display shows the driver where to drive etc, eliminating the need for the road to create, or even have traffic markings. For crud sakes, lest create low flying cars that follow cleared green space ‘roads’, instead of asphalt! That would even cost less than this, and we add green space to the cities all over the world! With the way technology is going, you wouldn’t even need to drive the thing, it could drive itself! Again, this would probably cost less! Its projects like this that give the climate change pundits a bad name. There are many much less costly and more viable ways to solve this problem, and so many others that these people use to beat their drum.

    • Adam says:

      It takes a lot of aviation fuel to keep a heavier than air vehicle in the air, flying cars would be subject to the same restriction. They’d suffer from having to be smaller because they wouldn’t have the same economies of scale. They’d also have either smaller wing areas or heavy folding mechanisms… if they’re winged vehicles they’d need to be able to ground travel to an airfield… so many problems.

      • x3n0x says:

        Understood, but it is still a more viable option than the solar powered road panels. You could fly in ground effect, which would be very feasible for long stretches, like highway travel, or cross country shipping, which would take a lot less energy. Smaller is probably better in a lot of cases anyway; Count how many people you see in a typical car every morning on your commute! Not sure about where you live, but even if carpooling is widely practiced, your usually lucky to have more than one or two occupants per vehicle in most traffic situations. Families are a different challenge, but not insurmountable by any stretch. I’m not saying this is a final solution, but likely a bit more feasible that tiling our miles and miles of roads with delicate, expensive panels. Who says these vehicles cant be inductively powered with coils under the ground, supplied from large scale power generating facilities?

        It would not be hard to make such coils, and place them under a green-space such as grass, or low shrubs.

      • taylorian71 says:

        Ground effect vehicles…less power than full flight. green roadways would still be viable.

  22. DainBramage1991 says:

    These wouldn’t last 3 months on the roads around here. Between the seasonal heaving of the roads, snow plows, studded tires, hills, and everything else our local roads deal with, these would be utterly destroyed in a heartbeat.

  23. Garlthik One Eye says:

    If they’re concerned with global warming, why make roads dark? That absorbs more IR radiation, and makes the city hotspots compared to the rest of the countryside. Same applies to Photovoltatic cells, unless they find a way to convert the IR to electricity.

    • dex drako says:

      the heat island effect has little to nothing to do with global warming.

      • Garlthik One Eye says:

        It does, however, with data collection. Especially with communities expanding into the countryside and temp-sensors remaining in place. We have such a unit in our town, that has been there for decades as the town started to encroach -then grow around it, and its’ temperatures have been rising extremely. I used to be able to compare temperatures with my own just outside town, but they recently upgraded to one of those container-housed units. Might be worth studying the difference between “official” sensor units, and other places, if not for anything other than having a control group.

  24. 1.21Gigawatts says:

    “Where we’re going… we don’t need roads.” – Doc Brown

  25. TrumpysVendetta says:

    The only way this technology and others like it are going to combat global warming is by sending up enough pies in the sky to block a bunch of sunlight from hitting the Earth.

  26. Indyaner says:

    Can I just ask: Why?
    Solar Panels are a great Technology, that is not cheap to produce and has only a great efficiency when positioned to the Sun. Maybe I’m old fashioned and people will make fun of me but: Why dont we first put this technique on locations where it is just doing good. I mean, How many % of the roof in the US are equipped with Solar? Why do we need to put them on the Ground for People to break? Why on the road? Its not like we are running out of space and are that desperate for new ideas to put them up. I get that it _could_ have a nice benefit of keeping the roads ice-free I guess… but how many Miles do you want to pave with that? 100Km/Miles? 1000Km/Miles And how many Tiles break each year and/or suffer from reduced capacity because of tire grid? I dont see it.

    Let us first populate our _own_ roof with this delicate technology, so _we_ can harvest the benefits for the sinlge household before laying it down as road-tiles and have to deal with energy-transportation problems, wear and tear, pressure, etc. etc.

    • Figureitout says:

      Agreed. Start with rooftops that don’t have trees overhead. Gather data like how many square miles of panels to how much power generated. And make it easy to replace.

      Don’t think anyone’s against big ideas like this, renewable energy is probably one of the most urgent things we need, but they need to be tested and questioned first. People have raised a lot of problems with it already.

  27. All of these comments are why your species does not progress, forward thinking takes forward action, sometimes the normal route must not be followed, everyone is too focused on the money instead of trying to find a better way forward. Sometimes as a species you have to decide this is what we are doing and just move forward.

    • Not a human says:

      Haha, “your” species

    • Figureitout says:

      Are you saying this as an alien or a human? I prefer rigorous testing before diving in, and in urban areas there will be shade from buildings and parked cars, not ideal for solar.

      • Michael says:

        Not to mention, road grime, leaf litter, general liter, mud, road kill, parked cars, cloudy days, traffic, and of course night time.

        Then there are all the the concerns that regular roads have, soil movement, thermal stresses and vibration from vehicles.

        Also, living in Australia near areas that are prone to bush fires, there is the incredible heat at will destroy everything in side the fancy tiles.

        But hey its all about the money

    • medix says:

      “forward thinking” takes educated and well-informed decisions, not just plowing headlong into the fist new and fascinating thing that comes along. This may be a start, but you *have* to be a skeptic, otherwise you won’t invest wisely.

  28. echodelta says:

    More traffic, less sun. Trees shade most streets in town. Connectors fail.

  29. Kevin says:

    The real test for them: How would they hold up during a NASCAR, Indy or F-1 race?

    • Richard says:

      That’s one test, but race cars are very lightweight, even though they’re vast and pull a lot of G forces in the turns. I’d like to see them tested on a hundred yard section of a rural interstate that gets lots of heavy truck traffic. Almost any part of I-80 would do, but the Donner Summit area in California would be particularly good, with tire chains used in the winter. If you’ve driven rural interstates much, you probably know of some highway where the heavy trucks have carved deep ruts in the pavement. Use these things there, and see how long they hold up.

  30. This is a cool idea. I’d like to see results of testing versus the following hypothesis: People can drive more safely on familiar roads than on unfamiliar roads. After all, this design inherently makes all aspects of every road variable and can therefore make even the most familiar road completely unfamiliar — even hackable for denial-of-service attack or worse, terrorism, if the worst possible cases are examined.

    Personally, I’d rather see current roads (created by cooking poison pulled from deep under ground, then pouring as ‘roads’ the crap left over after cooking — highly environmentally unfriendly in general) replaced with a custom-tailored organism. A highly calcified moss, for example, that could tolerate coloring and the weight of vehicles. An advantage is that the land under it doesn’t have to be killed, so critters can still cross under and eat on their way by, and another advantage is that potholes fill themselves, and a third advantage is that you can plan out a road and then plant plugs taken from an existing road which will then grow in until they reach the borders set down at the edges of the road.

  31. Strange; I’m sure I typed “hackaday.com”, but this is clearly Slashdot. My mistake.

  32. Dimo says:

    I think a big problem with the idea, is scratching and getting dirt on the glass. It will very quickly and drastically reduce the effectiveness of the underlying panels, negating the expected cost benefit. To account for that, these roads would have to be cleaned a lot more often than normal roads.

    What about capturing/storage of heat? Roads (esp. in parts of the south west of the US) heat up signifficantly during the summer (as a pair of my sneakers can attest…). What if you could re-capture a part of the thermal energy?

  33. Jedi says:

    the tiles should have AC and DC paths, every so many tiles introduce an inverter to the circuit to convert DC into AC (because AC travels long distances better, right?) and as for running network cables, i think you’d come out better placing a Wireless network relay tile every 300 ft or so. and fund this with bitcoin because the cost of an operation like this is probably greater than the current market cap of bitcoin. use raw hashing power for the snow/ice melters. solar powered self illuminating self networking bitcoin mining roadways.
    i don’t see this ‘creating higher energy demand at night’ (unless you actually decided to add bitcoin mining cells or some other distributed computing system, or maybe if you want to thaw roads at night, because roads don’t already thaw themselves at night. ) because you’re introducing more electrical energy to the grid, there are plenty of things to do with that energy that don’t involve batteries, like pumping water uphill or grid-tie inversion. and then LED lighting on the roads at night isn’t going to amount to much. once a standard size/shape/pinout protocol is in place, then when they do get damaged,stolen, etc, they can be upgraded as they fail, with better solar panels and whatever else people decide to put in them.

    • Koplin says:

      introduce an inverter? what about conversion loss? Have a look at the pacific DC intertie,

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_DC_Intertie

      Its not the AC vs DC thing its about voltage. Raise the voltage, and you get less loss. ohm’s law. The grid is AC because its easier to use transformers then inverters.

      I love the idea this brings to the table, however Occam’s razor applies here.

      How can something with a higher cost, more complexity and all of the other bits be “better” then the current practices? Roads are simply used to make it easier to move objects from one point to another. Asphalt is basically waste oil and rocks, concrete has the energy used to make the cement but has a very high durability in most cases. Glass, semi conductors, connectors etc are all a lot more complex. Even if they last a long time (needs to be proven). Installation isn’t going to be as fast either so no one is going to win
      you could do something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkVBg_-OviI

      All said and done great concept but I think this version falls short:
      Parking, as others pointed out means shaded cells
      Snow melt systems don’t get rid of the ice that will build up in the run off path.
      Lots of wires and connectors = lots of things to break
      Surface may be strong but other materials are at least as good and lower cost
      LED lighting – I love the idea, this is one of the better options, no need for paint that wears off and can be modified. but LED’s do fail =No such thing as a free lunch
      Load cells – like the idea but again more parts to wear however the energy cost of lighting paths would be lower if the system detected load and activated a section of led’s at a time.

      Look at Edison he picked one thing at a time to fix. With this system what are they trying to fix? Every road/parking issue all at the same time and introducing new ways to fail.

  34. Galane says:

    A solar parking lot is rather silly. The solar aspect of it will be mostly useless when the lot is at highest use since most of the PV cells will be in the shade under vehicles.

  35. Bigred says:

    I specially like the heating part, if you can heat up the road sow there is no snow and ice on it that will save A lot off money spend now to clean all that snow and ice.
    If you can do this with only solar power (the streets have to be really clean) it will be cost neutral.

    • Ren says:

      But here in Minnesnowta, the State puts heavy salt on the roads during the Winter.
      That is so the vehicles rust quickly and the Iron Range produces more iron for new cars!

  36. vonskippy says:

    Dear lady or gentleman, I have a commercial product that has such a small chance of success, not even the wackiest of angel investors will give me money. So instead of funding it like a normal commercial product, I’ll beg for money on the internet. Don’t worry, I won’t bother you will all those pesky investor/partner/loan paperwork, I’ll just take your money and give you some small and useless trinket. Wow, isn’t it exciting, you’re part of a huge scam that if by some major miracle actually takes off, I’ll make millions, and you, as the provider of my first chunk of money, will make absolutely nothing. So sign up early and give til it hurts, I might be changing the world, and wouldn’t it be exceptionally selfish for all of you not to participate?

  37. eljonco says:

    Funny how similar ideas develop in parallel universes. The Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde got a major construction company interested in similar ideas. Many of his ideas don’t require electronics (and therefore probably won’t make it to Hackaday):

    http://www.smarthighway.net

  38. t1000 says:

    skynet

  39. n_slash_a says:

    Interesting conecpt, but I have a few questions:
    1) What about bad weather? By that I mean hail and lightning.
    2) How independent are the panels? What if there is a bad part that dies after a month? Will it take out other panels?
    3) You mentioned it can take the weight of a truck, what about a bullet? If there is a robbery and the police show up, it is possible that a shot might be fired straight down.
    4) How robust are the panels? As you said, roads haven’t changed much, will they still be there in 10 years? 50 years? 100 years?
    5) Are they affected by expansion the same way as bridges? How do you account for that?
    6) What if a panel breaks? Roads currently break slowly, where it becomes a depression and then a low spot. If a panel breaks, how far will the roadway fall? Will it be a small dip or will a wheel fall several inches and suddenly you have a spinning car?
    7) Highways currently have “ruble strips” if a car starts to drift off, will you be able to incorporate something similar?
    8) One last thought, currently, every 1 mile in 5 has to be straight to allow an airplane to land. You said you are designing to support refinery equipment weighing 230,000 pounds. How much force does an airplane (both commercial and military) exert when landing?

    • Indyaner says:

      Concerns, fired bullets while chasing a robber, might damage Tiles? Landing Planes on streets as a viable option that cant be neglected? Is this someone from the US speaking or were you looking for the least significant problems we had to deal with, when developing this technique?

    • John says:

      Highways are not made to be used as runways in the US, that is a myth.

      • Hitek146 says:

        About a year ago, I asked a highway-bridge-engineer friend of mine that works for the highway department about this, and he confirmed that the new I-35 project in my state had to adhere to aircraft landing length stretches of highway. I seem to recall that he told me they are only a mile long, though…

  40. tim says:

    cool, but what about ….viruses and trojans
    That’ll be kinda risky to have invected road

  41. Edgar Vice says:

    ‘roads haven’t changed much’

    zomg… there is a reason for that! there is absoluteley no need for this shit
    In the video i can see $$ signs in his eyes

  42. 0c says:

    What a stupid idea. We don’t need any more e-waste, and there are much better uses of money than dumping it into dubious tech “quick fixes”.

    Here’s a wild idea: let’s actively fight the ‘Happy Motoring’ individualized wasteful car culture that was spawned after WWII by allocating more space to bicycles and pedestrians. Bicycles effectively cause zero road wear so even with current road technology the roads will last for a very long time if they’re mainly used by bicycles and other light vehicles. Trucks cause the most road damage.

    • robomonkey says:

      Since we lack intelligent leadership in federal and local governments, good luck. I’d love to take the train on my 30 mile commute…maybe drive 3 to 4 miles, park and get on board. Problem is that the train that can do that has an awful schedule, breaks down at inconvenient times, and is overly crowded. Does our leadership truly invest in viable mass transit? Busses are stupid, and the push to more pedestrian and bicycle traffic is fine, if the pedestrians and bikes were following the rules. Here in DC, they either cross when it suits them, or if they’re on a bike they treat traffic signs and signals as a challenge, and blow right through intersections.

      Wonderful thought, but we’re a long way from viability.

      • Ren says:

        Busses are stupid? Well, literally, yes. Busses do not need rails laid down everywhere they need to go. Busses can alter their routes if needed, even in the same day. Just about any long distance bike path around here is made on an abandoned railroad bed. So in effect, bikes and trains are mutually exclusive.

  43. sufzoli says:

    Why I feel, that the parts of the idea are comming feom here?

    http://www.mosaiclights.com

  44. You say the idea of a road is simple, but trust me + for crying out loud how many times does it need to be said — ITS NOT THAT SIMPLE.

    :D

  45. Russ says:

    Clearly a money grab designed to take advantage of those with little knowledge of engineering, physics, or economics. Before from just government grants, but now anyone can join in. Lets see…

    * LEDs for road markers that would be too dim to make out if you have headlights on, much less with the sun shining on them.

    * A textured surface that would not only reduce gas mileage by 10% (google for Volvo textured road surface study) but also drastically increase road noise. Can you imagine if everyone everywhere was driving on a rumble strip? And of course a textured surface reduces output efficiency.

    * They mention piezoelectric power generation. This also reduces fuel economy of vehicles. The power comes from somewhere.

    * One of the dirtiest environments you can imagine. Collected dust, mud, rubber dust from tires, and oil and grease to hold it all to the roadway. All reducing output efficiency. They mention titanium dioxide in the FAQ, but only in a hand wavy sort of way. No testing, no discussion of titanium dioxide at inhaled at concentration is a potential carcinogen, effect on the environment, etc.

    * One of the harshest environments. Any abrasion or scratching of the glass will lead to reduced output efficiency.

    * Poor failure mode for a road surface. The ground and road surfaces are not static things, they shift due to thermal expansion, erosion, subsidence, and in some areas, seismic activity. Most road surfaces have a good amount of give to them. These are solid blocks that would create some pretty impressive raised edges.

    * They compare their repair to a pothole repair, without understanding the mechanism that leads to a pothole. A pothole comes about because of weakened soil structure, not because of the road surface. Replacing the road surface does nothing to fix a pothole. The evidence of a pothole with one of these things would be seeing one of them flipped on edge.

    * An advertised snow melting mechanism that is clearly bunk. Electric heaters for melting snow put out about 50W/sqft, potentially for 24hr/day depending on precipitation patterns. You’d have to pump in huge amounts of energy into the roadway to keep it snow and ice free. The enthalpy of fusion for ice (snow) is huge. (They seem to have modified they FAQ a bit on this, but not to the point of admitting defeat, they mention the wattage of the panels used, but not the actual expected generation of the panel).

    * A complete lack of understanding of the efficiencies of AC transmission of power or the inefficiencies or cost of a DC grid that could/would replace it.

    * They claim it would create a decentralized power grid, but these could only provide a portion of the power required as they are solar and cannot be relied upon for on demand power, especially during winter months.

    * No access to any of their actual testing data.

    * Evasive answers in their own FAQ: “How much power does your parking lot generate?” They don’t list any actual generation numbers, they add up the wattage of the solar cells in the parking lot.

    * Indiegogo flexible funding with no actual product produced.

    * No cost analysis of any kind performed. Not even estimates.

    * Anything on the ground has great potential to be shaded by buildings or trees. Most roads I’m familiar with are lined with buildings and trees. Parking lots even more so.

    * Many better options for PV installation exist and are already used extensively. Above parking lot PV exists today, with only a fraction of parking lots used for such a purpose. Above parking lot PV installations can even track the sun leading to even higher efficiencies. They even protect cars from the sun and rain. Rooftop installations are also of course a huge industry. I don’t see how a cost analysis when comparing these to other options would come out in any way favorable.

  46. Olivier says:

    Its bad practise to change the enviornment so your car or whatever can understand it, instead, your car should work with the real world scenario thats in place worldwide right now.

    Pretty much the same reasoning why robots need a human shape, only here its the other way around, you dont wanna have to edit all the roads in the world so they support self driving cars, just like how you would want a robot to be able to walk stairs, because we already have those everywhere

  47. Ryan says:

    Yeah, this video pretty much lays out every problem.

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