Mike Waters' blog: 20 June 2011 - The road of the future
20 June 2011
Mike Waters is senior insight & consultancy manager at Arval, the leading vehicle leasing and fleet management company.
I think its accepted wisdom that our roads are in pretty poor condition at the moment. An increase in the number of vehicles on the road and the hangover of a severe winter seem to have combined to make road damage, roadworks and therefore congestion a common occurrence.
Whether on motorways, A-roads or around towns and cities, congestion provides a major aggravation and so the more that can be done to avoid it the better. With this in mind, news of a 'Forever Open Road' coming out of the European Union provides interesting reading.
The concept is simple: a new blueprint for European roads designed to be 'forever open', with minimum intervention for repairs and widening or for dealing with weather hazards. The impact should be improved safety and mobility, reduced traffic jams, and a quieter and cleaner driving environment. At the moment, three elements are being investigated:
1. An adaptable, modular construction, with fixing points for electronic signs and heat sensors to capture energy from the sun. This road would be self-cleaning, durable, easy to repair and have instant crack repair.
2. Climate change resilience, including protection from heat and floods, porous surfacing, carbon capture planting and lights/signs powered by captured energy.
3. Automation, with hard shoulder running, in-road sensors for lane and speed control, weather warning systems, road condition monitoring and vehicle guidance infrastructure.
The road would automatically provide in-built vehicle guidance, as well as travel information and performance measurement. It will be built from sustainable materials and will store and re-use energy. It will cope with extremes of weather and will be able to clean and repair itself.
At the moment this is only at the concept stage; we know that these things take time to come to fruition and so when will this be? Well there will many challenges and obstacles to overcome so it may well be closer to 2030 before a road near to you is built in a way that means it will never close.
Good mobility is crucial to all of us. When we begin a journey for business or pleasure, it is often important to understand what time you will arrive. What's more, delays don't just cost us time, they cost money in wasted fuel and they cost the environment through increased emissions. Therefore it comes as welcome news that this issue is at least being addressed and I for one cant wait for the 'Forever Open Road'.
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