Sensors embedded in pavements have unveiled possibilities of smart roadways that do much more than merely facilitating transportation.
FREMONT, CA: The extensive road networks across the world could one day become a part of advanced digital infrastructures and smart solutions. Embedding sensors into pavements can potentially enhance the functionality of roadways and transform roads into smart facilities. Experts are constantly working towards developing embedded technology to make it compatible with conventional road designs. Some innovative companies have already proposed advanced projects. Smart roads can contribute towards making transportation better, and facilitating smart city plans. As sustainability becomes more important than ever, modifying existing infrastructure to address evolving needs has become crucial. Some of the prospects that sensor-embedded roadways have sparked are mentioned in the list below.
• Energy Generation
The potential of harvesting energy from the roadways is real. A vast number of vehicles ply on the roads every day. Smart sensors embedded into pavements have displayed the capability to harness energy from moving vehicles. Together with wireless sensors, and smart construction materials, transport industry can develop roads that create power. This energy can be stored in batteries placed on the roadside. Thus, roadways will be able to contribute to energy infrastructure. In the age of electric vehicles, roads that can generate electricity can be a big advantage. The energy could also be used to drive real-time road data collection.
• Road Lines and Signage
Paints are conventionally used to demarcate road lines and signals. Embedded technology can help replace paints with smart signage. LED lights embedded into pavement slabs can redefine signs and borders to facilitate traffic effectively. Previously, there had been efforts to incorporate into roads glass or fiber casings that could contain LEDs. However, it turned out to be unviable. Directly embedding LEDs into pavements solves the problem and comes across as a much better alternative. With LEDs, there comes enhanced visibility and options of customization. The maintenance requirements for embedded LEDs are also low.
• Roadway Maintenance
Road networks are intensively used and are thus vulnerable to wear and tear. However, there should be no compromise when it comes to the quality and strength of roads. Only when roads are maintained properly, safety can be guaranteed. Embedded sensors can contribute towards the maintenance of roads. Using sensors, it is easy to monitor the structural integrity of the streets. Every time a road network degrades, sensors embedded in the pavement material can notify concerned authorities regarding the falling standards. Thus, sensor-embedded smart roads are making road maintenance and management better.
• Road Safety with Responsive Pavements
By embedding sensors into roads, one can create smart roads that are sensitive to various factors. Enabling roads to become ‘feeling’ entities has several safety-related advantages. When a pavement is equipped with sensors that can detect unnatural movements or trajectories, it is easier to pass information regarding accidents. If a sensor can convey to control centers regarding a collision on the road, authorities can swiftly take action with zero time lags. This will save the lives of many accident victims. Apart from that, smart road sensors can be deployed to deliver information regarding traffic to road users, thus enabling easy alerts during hazards.
• Digital Networks
Smart streets can serve as digital networks. With evolving embedded technologies, pavement slabs can be converted into digital infrastructure that is capable of transmitting signals and messages. Some experiments have also been done to embed wi-fi nodes into concrete streets. Such capabilities will make roads highly compatible with smart, self-driving cars.
The potential of embedded technologies in boosting the functionalities of pavements are endless. Efficient, multipurpose, smart, and safe traffic infrastructure is now achievable.