Are glow-in-the-dark roads coming?

May 6, 2014 12:00 AM

For a multitude of reasons, driving at night can be a little more risky than during the day - mainly for the most obvious reason: there's less light guiding the way. Of course, drivers can perform a number of measures to ensure they are as safe as possible on the roads, such as keeping up with scheduled maintenance and taking care of any auto repair that needs to be done as quickly as possible. However,  the hazards of driving after the sun goes down are still often difficult to avoid. But what if the roads were glow in the dark? Though it may sound like a far-off futuristic concept, a recent pilot project has actually been testing it out. Now the only question is whether or not the initiative will be successful.

?Testing it out
Engadget reported that the idea was to use special "foto-luminizing powder" to create lane markers that absorb ultraviolet light throughout the day, which then allows the lines to glow for up to 10 hours at night. When the engineering firm Heijmans unveiled the idea at the Dutch Design Awards, they won Best Future Concept for their glow-in-the-dark innovation, according to Autoblog. The company has received much praise for proposing a green lighting solution that could reduce demands for street lamps, which use up a lot of energy lining the roads, particularly in rural areas. 

However, it seems that the pilot project, which took place in the Netherlands, has hit a few snags. Autoblog noted that often the lane markers were not always adequately bright. So why isn't it working properly? Engadget explained that the lines are sensitive to moisture, thus causing them to fade or disappear with heavy rainfall. Furthermore, the lines don't always give off a consistent amount of light. Heijmans isn't giving up just yet, though. The firm revealed that it plans to resolve these problems for the next phase of testing this summer. 

"As expected the 'real life' trial enables us to learn from the environment and users, like humidity and user experience," said the firm, as quoted by Fast Company magazine. "We will use these insights to introduce an update to the Glowing Lines 2.0 version. In the meantime we have temporarily faded out the lining to prevent any confusing situations for road users."

Fine-tuning the idea
Now, the company is going back to the drawing board until the roads shine successfully. Autoblog explained that eventually, the company aims to leverage a slew of different highway technologies in addition to the glow-in-the-dark lanes. For example, the firm is considering motion-sensing road lights and responsive "Wind Light". Fast Company explained that the firm has also been experimenting with a "Dynamic Paint," which would be able to respond to temperature changes and other elements, and then alert drivers about road and weather conditions. For example, when it's especially cold and slippery, ice crystals would become more visible to motorists. Additionally, Heijmans is look into building lanes with wireless inductive charging for electric cars. According to the news outlet, the engineers have promised their new innovations would be brought to fruition within five years.

"The goal is to make roads that are more sustainable and interactive by using interactive lights, smart energy and road signs that adapt to specific traffic situations," read a company statement.

In the meantime, people can still check out the work that Heijmans has done so far. Their first iteration of the "Smart Highway" is available for public viewing in Eindhoven during Dutch Design Week Oct. 18-26.

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