Smart Highway
Roads that communicate with drivers to promote traffic safety and efficiency

For a long time, we have had super intelligent cars, but really dumb roads. Until now, when a young Dutch designer decided to approach the biggest part of our transportation system with a belief that roads should communicate with its drivers in order to promote both traffic safety and traffic efficiency. It is roads re-imagined.

In the past decades, large investments have been going into developing smart cars, but very little focus have been given to the developing of smart roads. Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde decided to do something about this, so – in collaboration with Heijmans Infrastructure, a Dutch multinational development company – he designed INDEX: Award 2013 Winner in the Community Category, Smart Highway, a whole new road experience to be realized already by the second half of 2013. "This is not just some funny idea - we are talking about the future of roads everywhere here", says INDEX: Award jury member Nille-Juul Sørensen.

"This is not just some funny idea - we are talking about the future of roads everywhere here"

“We live in cities of endless gray concrete roads, surrounded by steel lamps and they have a huge visual impact on our cities. But why do the roads remain so rough and without imagination? Why not turn them into a vision of mobility - a symbol of the future?” Daan Roosegaarde asks.

Smart Highway is an interactive and sustainable road that includes a five-step plan for modernizing European roadways. It proposes embedding highways with technology that can visually communicate when the road is slippery, charge your electric car as you drive, and generate electricity for its own lights. The goal is to make roads more sustainable and interactive by using light, energy and road signs that automatically adapt to the traffic situation. New design concepts include the ‘Glow-in-the-Dark Road’, ‘Dynamic Paint’, ‘Interactive Light’, ‘Induction Priority Lane’ and ‘Wind Light’.

The Smart Highway is not a completely new road, but rather a kit of parts that can be applied to existing roads as needed. "It's not an esoteric thing, it's a pervasive thing. After all, we all know roads", says INDEX: Award jury member Ravi Naidoo. For example, the “Dynamic Paint” communicates with drivers about weather and traffic changes.

"It's not an esoteric thing, it's a pervasive thing. After all, we all know roads"

When the temperature drops under freezing and the roads become slippery, the paint activates, covering the road with a dusting of bright cartoon snowflakes. Similarly, a glow-in-the-dark paint treated with photo-luminizing powder could reduce the need for auxiliary lighting. Charged in daylight, the glow-in-the-dark road illuminates the contours of the road at night for up to 10 hours.

Smart Highway is a tactile, high-tech environment in which the viewer and space become one. This connection, established between ideology and technology, results in what Roosegaarde calls 'techno-poetry'. With his unique and poetic approach, Daan Roosegaarde is offering the world an entirely new approach to roads, which is not only beautiful and alluring but also a sustainable and cost-effective solution, thus offering a unique design solution to both developed and developing countries. Daan Roosegaarde is awarded for a design that the INDEX: Award Jury is confident will spin out to many sustainable and cost-efficient innovations in the years to come. Innovations that will all carry a large potential to improve life for people.

Use of award money
Daan Roosegaarde will use part of the €100,000 from INDEX: Award 2013 to support realization and storytelling of Smart Highway. Specifically, the money will be used to push the concepts 'Dynamic Paints', 'Glowing Lines', 'Electronic Priority Lane', and 'Wind Lights' from prototype to actual product thus making sure that Smart Highway is realized. Funds will also be spent on communicating the story and ideology of Smart Highway via social media and lectures by Daan Roosegaarde for art, architecture and design students.

Another part of the €100,000 from INDEX: Award 2013 will be used to generate new ideas that come from the Smart Highway process. For example, this will comprise explorations in applying the principle of the Smart Highway project on bicycle lanes or airport landing tracks. Included herein are also even more avant-garde ideas such as taking the bioluminescence of jellyfish or fireflies and apply this to nature, thus making roadside plants and trees glow at night as an alternative to public lighting - resulting in a 100% new natural lighting.

Lastly, the INDEX: Award money will be spent on a special pilot project for Smart Highway in a developing country. Studio Roosegaarde thus sets out to do a ‘Glowing Lines’ project in Mumbai or Cape Town/ Johannesburg with a low-budget client, where part of the funds will make the project realizable and enable the studio to work with local clients in Africa or India, to enhance a safe, energy neutral, and a magical landscape for the local people - creating a new landmark of light.