Roads are becoming more than just tarmac

Posted on 23 October 2017 by CarTakeBack

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Last week a revolutionary new road surface was revealed in London. It was designed by Umbrellium for the insurance company, Direct Line, and they are suggesting that it could cut down the number of road accidents substantially if adopted in the future.

Using high definition cameras to monitor the road, it detects and responds to vehicles on the road and pedestrians who are about to cross, this feeds back information to a computer, which controls LED lights in the surface of the road. The computer uses machine learning to predict the movements of pedestrians, and creates crossings for them with the LED lights, as well as warnings for vehicles when someone walks into the road unexpectedly.

LED smart road unveiled in London

There are other features too, including extra warnings for cyclists when the pedestrians are hidden from view by high sided vehicles, and the crossings becoming wider when there are lots of people waiting to use it.

With technology like this being developed, we wonder what the roads of our future will look like? There are other road surface projects being worked on across the globe with the aim of making our roads safer, more sustainable, power generating, and even self-healing! We wonder which ones we will see appearing in the UK?

Plastic roads

In The Netherlands, the firm VolkerWessels is working on a road surface made from recycled plastic. It claims the benefits over traditional asphalt include the ability to withstand more extreme temperatures, corrosion resistance properties, reduced construction times, and extended lifespan.

Roads made of recycled plastic

Solar roads

In the USA, Solar Roadways Project are hoping to replace concrete surfaces with solar panels, which generate and store electricity. The surface has the ability to charge street lights and the electric cars that drive over it, and also contains heating devices that melt snow and prevent ice.

Solar roadways

Self-healing concrete

Billions of pounds are spent in the UK every year to maintain and repair concrete structures, including roads, tunnels and bridges. These repairs also take time and result in road closures and traffic build up. Three universities in the UK are looking to solve this, by creating self-healing concrete. University of Cambridge, Cardiff University, and the University of Bath, are testing self-healing concrete that uses bacteria to seal cracks.

self healing concrete being tested

Puddle sucking roads

A substance has been created that drains away water in seconds, stopping the build-up of surface water and deep puddles, which create a hazard for drivers and cyclists with risks of aquaplaning, concealing dips and bumps, and forcing cyclists further into the road to get around the water. It's a simple concept, the road surface is permeable and allows the water to drain quickly into the substrate, reducing the strain on drains that become flooded during heavy rain.

water draining through a road surface

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