In The Netherlands, a Dutch artist and innovator, Daan Roosegaarde, and his team, “connect people and technology in installations that improve daily life in urban environments, spark the imagination and fight the climate crisis. Clean air, clean water, clean energy, and clean space are their new values, and light is their language.” They have invented installations such as WATERLICHT, which is a virtual flood showing the power of water; SMOG FREE PROJECT, the world’s first outdoor air purifier which turns smog into jewellery; SPACE WASTE LAB, visualizing and up-cycling space waste, URBAN SUN (cleans public spaces of the coronavirus), and the list goes on.
One design, however, is extremely important because of its effort to address climate change and encourage clean mobility. The impact of mobility on our global environment is huge. The U.S. is the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, with the combustion engine accounting for about 27 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the most significant contributor to U.S. GHG emissions. Between 1990 and 2020, GHG emissions in the transportation sector increased more in absolute terms than in any other industry. However, not only do the vehicles on the road create pollution; but they also affect the roads themselves and even the surrounding road infrastructure. For example, street lighting can take up vast amounts of energy and increase light pollution, especially if not carefully managed and maintained.
Studio Roosegaarde decided to tackle this issue with the SMART HIGHWAY project, the interactive and sustainable roads of tomorrow, in partnership with Heijmans Infrastructure. This project aimed to prove that roads could not only be green and sustainable but also to show that they could generate energy. The road interacts with the traffic by using light, energy and information. SMART HIGHWAY consists of other Studio Roosegaarde projects such as Electric Priority Lane, Dynamic Paint, Glowing Lines, Interactive Light, Road Printer, and Wind Light. “In its first design, GLOWING LINES charges during the day-time and glows for several hours at night to create an iconic highway experience and increase safety.
Other designs such as VAN GOGH BICYCLE PATH and GATES OF LIGHT have also been realized to enhance safety and poetry.” So, every aspect of this road is sustainable. Glowing lines, generated by the sunlight from the daytime, use no energy to stay on throughout the night. On the side of the road, tiny wind turbines outline the edges of the road. In bad weather and icy weather, there are glowing symbols on the road to highlight these dangers, such as snowflakes or raindrops.
The best part of this road is that if you have a rechargeable electric car, which more and more people now have, the road itself can charge the car while it’s driving! They have installed an electric priority lane, which uses sensors and advanced technology to charge electric cars on the move. The SMART HIGHWAY received the best future concept award at the Dutch Design Awards, Accenture Innovation Award, and INDEX Award Denmark. Studio Roosegaarde continues to create innovative and sustainable designs for the future.
Imagine if all our future roads could be sustainable. If we could drive safely and efficiently? Knowing that intelligent technologies are helping the environment around us. Also, as electric cars become more common, it’s essential to find solutions to minimize the charging time needed per car. If you could have a slow charge while you drive and then a quick boost when you stop for your breaks, it could cut out a lot of waiting time, hence also cutting congestion at gas stations. So, stay up to date with the latest development of Studio Roosegaarde and the SMART HIGHWAY, and let’s hope we see more of these roads coming into production in the future.