Future smart roads could play music, generate electricity and charge cars while driving

Future smart roads could play music, generate electricity and charge cars while driving
Future smart roads could play music, generate electricity and charge cars while driving

Future smart roads could play music and regulate traffic in a bid to minimise emissions and save lives, new research suggests.

Intelligent roads could also harvest sunlight and generate electricity to help offset future power supply issues, generating light at night and melting snow and ice during the winter months.

The study from the Royal Society of Journals explored how electricity could be generated through sunlight captured by solar cells built into the road’s surface or by harnessing the mechanical vibrations produced by the vehicles travelling along it, producing energy which could either be stored or fed to the electric power grid.

The UK’s national grid could be unable to cope with growing demand for electricity as a result of increasing numbers of electric cars taking to the nation’s road, a report from the government-commissioned Electric Vehicles Energy Task Force warned last week. Such smart roads could help to offset future demand on electricity supplies.

As electric vehicles (EVs) become commonplace, ‘electrified roads’ that charge vehicles automatically as they travel along roads has captured the UK government’s attention, the report claimed.

An electric car and a plug-in hybrid car charge at a public charging station in Berlin (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
An electric car and a plug-in hybrid car charge at a public charging station in Berlin (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

EVs driving along an electrified road could charge while driving over underground cables, which generate electromagnetic fields strong enough to be received by a receiver device in the car, transforming it into electrical power and spelling an end to ‘range anxiety’ experienced by drivers worried they’ll run out of power before reaching the next charging point.

Bird Street in central London is already an example of the smart streets springing up across the world, where pedestrian footsteps on a walkway creates kinetic energy thanks to concealed generators.

Music for cars

Japan, USA, Denmark, the Netherlands, Taiwan and South Korea have all experimented with musical road surfaces to encourage drivers to stick to the speed limits and issue hazard warnings.

Notes are generated by driving over grooves or rumble strips on the road’s surface, producing a series of notes depending on the inter-spacing of the grooves.

The optimal speed to produce music is 28mph,  the researchers noted, adding that driving too quickly would cause the music to sound as if it was being fast-forwarded.

Intelligent roads could also be created to help the freight business weigh cars, vans and trucks automatically, without having to take time out of their journey to pull into weigh station checkpoints.

Motorway breakdown
The AA says it is not safe for its crews to attend breakdowns on smart motorways (Photo: Shutterstock)

Smart motorways are designed to ease congestion by using the hard shoulder either as a permanent extra lane or as an additional lane during busy times. Drivers are expected to try to reach an emergency refuge area, which can be up to 1.5 miles apart, if they experience a problem.

Figures from Highways England, which oversees the smart motorway network, show that more than 19,000 vehicles broke down in a live lane over the last two years – equivalent to 26 every day.

The AA recently expressed its fears over the safety of smart motorways, revealing it has instructed its recovery crews not to stop at breakdowns on the controversial roads.

Nine people were killed on the smart motorway network last year and it was found that systems designed to detect broken down vehicles can stop working in heavy traffic.

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