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Transportation Technology

Futuristic Highway Will Glow In the Dark For Icy Conditions 174

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Will Oremus reports that a glow-in-the-dark highway will be installed in the Netherlands that will replace standard road markings with photoluminescent powder that charges in the daylight and glows through the night for up to 10 hours. But the new highway's most interesting feature is when the temperature drops below freezing, the road will automatically light up with snowflake indicators to warn drivers of icy conditions (video). 'One day I was sitting in my car in the Netherlands, and I was amazed by these roads we spend millions on but no one seems to care what they look like and how they behave,' says designer Daan Roosegaarde. 'I started imagining this Route 66 of the future where technology jumps out of the computer screen and becomes part of us.' The first few hundred meters of glow-in-the-dark, weather-indicating road will be installed in the province of Branbant in mid-2013, followed by priority induction lanes for electric vehicles, interactive lights that switch on as cars pass and wind-powered lights within the next five years. 'Research on smart transportation systems and smart roads has existed for over 30 years — call any transportation and infrastructure specialist and you'll find out yourself,' adds Emina Sendijarevick. 'What's lacking is the implementation of those innovations and making those innovations intuitive and valuable to the end-consumers — drivers.'"
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Futuristic Highway Will Glow In the Dark For Icy Conditions

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  • by EmagGeek ( 574360 ) <gterich&aol,com> on Monday January 07, 2013 @09:10AM (#42503755) Journal

    I had gloves that did that back in the 1970's.

    Glad to finally see a more practical use for this 50 year old technology.

  • Waste of time/money. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    How is this going to be more visible than the highly reflective paint that is already used?
    Many cars already notify you if icy conditions are likely to exist, snowflakes seem redundant.
    Neither will be very visible when covered with snow and ice.

    • by dintech ( 998802 )
      So you can tail people with your lights off like in the movies. Because that's not conspicuous, oh no...
    • by Tx ( 96709 )

      This idea does have that "solution looking for a problem" feel to it, doesn't it? Glow-in-the-dark road markings would be nice, but in the part of the UK where I live, they seem to have trouble managing the basics like fixing pot-holes and re-profiling dangerous bends. I'd much rather they got on top of that stuff first, pothole-free roads would be plenty futuristic enough for me.

  • You're absolutely useless, aren't you Slashdot?
    http://tech.slashdot.org/story/12/10/30/2055259/glow-in-the-dark-smart-highways-coming-to-the-netherlands-in-2013 [slashdot.org]

    You even link to articles on the same site, just one is .com and the first is .co.uk. They were even published on the same day.
    That day being October 30th. Over 2 months ago. I think that would be considered "old" by any standard.
  • by drcln ( 98574 ) on Monday January 07, 2013 @09:45AM (#42504017)

    In the U.S. state of Virginia, Interstate 64 runs east–west through the middle of the state from West Virginia to the Hampton Roads region, a total of 298 miles (480 km). It is notable for crossing the mouth of the harbor of Hampton Roads on the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, the first bridge-tunnel to incorporate man-made islands. Also noteworthy is a section through Rockfish Gap, a wind gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which was equipped with an innovative system of airport-style runway lighting embedded into the pavement to aid motorists during periods of poor visibility due to fog or other conditions.
    source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_64_in_Virginia [wikipedia.org]

    A lighting system within the pavement to help designate lanes automatically activated by fog sensors was installed by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to improve safety during such weather conditions.
    source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockfish_Gap [wikipedia.org]

  • ... but wouldn't honking great images of snowflakes on the ground rushing towards you (and then underneath your car) not be rather distracting?

  • I have a great ice indicator at home; They're called eyes. If I have to defrost my car in the morning, the roads could be icy. If there was recently slow or heavy rain, the roads could be very icy. In both conditions, I will drive slower and in a higher gear than normal, will use the brakes very sparingly and start decelerating earlier, and will leave a much longer gap between my car and the car in front.

    Queue cries of "The ice indicator didn't show that there was ice on the road, so I did 60MPH around tha
    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      Yet all of those indicators could fail and still I will see ice on my commute. I should also mention my commute is under 10 miles. All it takes is a little snow melt during the middle of the day and there can be ice on the road but none on my car, not any rain. Your eyes are also quite useless when dealing this refrozen dirty slush.

      • I perhaps could have been clearer. " If there was recently slow or heavy rain, the roads could be very icy." By this I mean that, regardless of whether I can see snow, ice, or melt water, I will treat the road as icy. Having ridden over wet manhole covers on a scooter in my youth, and been involved in a rear-end collision due to "black ice" on the road, I have much respect for slippery road conditions and am well aware of how invisible a hazard it can be.
        • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

          Then you would have to treat the roads as icy for 4-6 months in many places. Which is not a bad thing, just a bit much for us to expect everyone to do without fail.

  • It looks like all that has been approved is a short experimental section. If the paint has not been proven to be able to hold up under real conditions I doubt very much that anyone would approve a full scale implementation on all roads. How do the markings hold up to wear, salt, plows, etc? It appears that this testing is what is approved.

    It would also seem that one would get many false positives. From the article the markings glow when the roads are cold. Slippery roads are not necessarily caused by cold a

  • 1. The wind powered lights will require power lines for backup for when the wind isn't enough. You could add batteries into the mix but you will have still need the power lines and then have to maintain the batteries.
    2. The glow in the dark road markings will wear off. Is the safe for the eviroment?
    3.The glow in the dark road markings will be more expensive than the paint we use now. BTW current paint reflect a lot of light. Since cars have lights why make the roads markings glow?
    4. Inductive charging roads? How much copper will that take?

    All that money would be better spent on making sure all roads have reflective markings and maybe an AM radio based system of road condition warnings, digital data of course.

    I have become convinced people come up with engineering scams. You come up with some really cool sounding or looking idea that has a lot of issues and extremely high costs. You then make nice presentations, you then get people saying, "this is cool", and then you get money to study the "problems" and build nothing or a small useless test system. Kind of like a cool picture of a bridge that had windmills under the roadway. It would have been expensive, a bad bridge, and a bad windmill.

    • I can see some limited use for point one in disaster situations - if the hurricane/earthquake has knocked out power, it'd be very useful for the road lights to stay lit for a couple of days so people can still travel safely while repairs are made. I don't see any advantage in glow-in-the-dark over the current retroreflector tech, and inductive charging on roads anywhere beside parking bays is just silly.

      • My car has this rather advanced system. Once it becomes dark outside, I simply pull a little knob on the dashboard and an integral lighting system is activated, illuminating the road, pedestrians and other obstacles ahead of me.

        • Just ahead of you. What is visibility really like on headlamps? It's actually terrible on near-horizontal things like road markings, ice, potholes, mud, curbs, etc - the angle of illumination and of viewing is just too shallow.

          • by PPH ( 736903 )

            Get decent headlights. Dump the NHTSA standards and adopt European lighting. I can see just fine with my H4 headlamps (30+ year old technology, still better than US headlamps).

            If you can't see without overhead lighting, you need a restricted license (daytime only). We can't light every square foot of road, so eventually you'll be in the dark anyway.

  • Let's look at this simply. New system in road = new system cost * miles of road. Paid by government. Smarter cars and driver education work regardless of whether the road is smart and the cost (and as mentioned above the liability) rest on the car owner not the government.
    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      If you are speaking of the USA, we can't possibly to do that. We cannot even get a real license test and requirements. Step 1 to improve road safety in the USA would be stringent testing and education requirements. Step 2 would be to bring our roads up to a first world standard instead of the third world asphalt over stone only a couple feet deep we do now.

  • by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Monday January 07, 2013 @10:39AM (#42504519)
    I live in Wisconsin. We have a nickname for anyone whose car goes in the ditch on the highway during a big snowstorm: morons. It's always some piece of crap minivan or Saturn Ion or Pontiac of some sort. The driver is always in a hurry or forgot that 4 wheel drive doesn't do anything for stopping and tada, ditch. Last major snowstorm there was approx 1 car in the ditch every 1.5 miles. No amount of sparkly snowflakes on the road will keep people that stupid from driving that stupidly, trust me. They're just idiots who will never learn their lesson. They're all Wisconsin plates too so don't go thinking it's someone from Texas or something who's never seen snow because those people are smart enough to stay home.
    This idea would be a giant waste of time and money and not benefit anyone.
    • You may have noticed that this test will be run in the Netherlands. For those of you not familiar with the place: our winter temperatures mostly hover around the 0 deg C mark. At night, the air cools to below 0 and the roads freeze over, in the morning the temperature rises above 0 but it takes hours for the roads to thaw. Combine that with local variations, spots that are more susceptible to frost like bridges and overpasses, etc. and you have conditions where slippery roads are not necessarily signaled by

    • I live in Colorado, and have lived for most of my life in Utah. What I notice is that the first big snowstorm of every winter season causes a large number of slide-offs. After that, not so much. I think lots of people forget how to drive on snow and ice during the warm season. That and the real morons can't drive after the first snowstorm because their car is in the shop.

      • by kbolino ( 920292 )

        I think many people wait until after the first snow before they put snow tires on their car. Changing tires is a nuisance, especially if you only have one set of rims, and snow tires run rough and get crappy mileage on dry roads.

        • Maybe. I don't think most people in Utah and Colorado use snow tires, though. Some do, certainly, especially those who live in the mountains and have to drive daily on steep roads that aren't well-traveled. The rest (including me) just drive carefully the ~20 days per year that it's bad. The Mountain West doesn't tend to have lots of persistent snow and ice -- it snows hard for a few days, then the sun is out for two or three weeks, usually. Not enough sun to melt all the snow, but enough to melt it off of
      • Same thing happens everywhere I've lived.

        In CA they forget how to drive in the rain.

  • This is insane bait and switch. We had been sold a bill of goods for the last five decades. Personal jetplanes that takes off from the drive way vertically and land wherever we want, flying at hypersonic speeds in between. There was no talk of this stupid glow in the dark highway. We were told highways will be obsolete, and so would be the cars. We have been waiting for personal VTOL jet planes for so long, and now suddenly we are back to the stupid cars, with four real round wheels I suppose. No crystalli
  • the road will automatically light up with snowflake indicators to warn drivers of icy conditions (computer-generated video)


  • Well, the problem is that on average, it's dark for about 12 hours. And in the season when it becomes cold enough for it to trigger, it's dark even longer.

  • I proposed this technology way back in 3rd grade in response to an assignment about saving energy. Note that the year was 1973. I expect royalty checks.
  • Another way to pander to idiot drivers, teaching them nothing except that they don't need to be observant or thoughtful drivers.

    Back up cameras, back up sensors, blind-spot detectors, cruise control all help to create a less aware driver. Now they'll learn that they don't need to pay attention to the road condition. (Slippery slope argument? Maybe)

    I almost ran over my 2 year old nephew one time in my truck (Dodge Ram). I didn't see him, he was behind me where there is NO visibility, sure a back up camer

  • Round here they solved the problem by making the surface of the road rough enough so that even when its icy you still get some traction.
    The best thing is it doesn't cost anything, you just don't resurface the road during the road construction season.
    And the rough roads encourage slower driving all year round.

  • Watching the video reminded me of Disney's Magic Highway [youtube.com] from 1958.

    Better visibility will be featured in new highway designs. As day dims into night, electric eyes automatically illuminate the road ahead.

    The 1958 video doesn't show anything I would call an "electric eye," but the highway appears to glow in the dark. We have had "electric eyes" on streetlights for a while, with sensors that turn the lights on when it gets dark, but it always stuck with me that they didn't show any street lights in the video... the road itself seemed to be the light source.

  • Let's see, glare from the ice blinding you and everyone else, can't see the lanes, oh, that's right: all of this needs power... and when the power's out, it's useless. Let's see, when does power go out... oh, right, in bad weather!

    reflectors in the road, in the lines, as they have in some states, are a far better and cheaper solution, and they're "powered" by your headlights (unless you're one of those idiots with misaligned headlights, in states that don't have a safety inspection which includes that, ever

  • And what are they going to do for the remaining 6 hours of the night during winter?

    • I gotta admit, that's one thing that kind of struck me.

      Here in southern California, in the dead of Winter, we get about 14 hours of night and about 10 hours of daylight. So even in our southern latitude, it appears that we'd come up four hours short.

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