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Are Glowing, Solar Smart Roads the Future? 193

cartechboy (2660665) writes "We were just talking about glow-in-the-dark roads and how they were having issues already. Now there's a company called Solar Roadways that's looking to make glowing, solar, smart roads. Back in 2009 the Department of Transportation awarded Solar Roadways $100,000 to prototype road systems with embedded digital signage and dividing lines, all powered by the sun. As it turns out, the company's prototype performed well — so well that Solar Roadways is now looking to go big-time, and it's asking for your help to do so. At the heart of the Solar Roadways project sit a vast number of hexagonal tiles. The bottom of those tiles consist of solar panels and circuit boards, covered with a thick sheet of tempered glass. The panels contain LED lights, which can be configured to mark traffic lanes, send messages, or fulfill other functions. The panels also have heating elements to help melt snow and ice during colder months. Are these smart roads the future, or just another pipe dream?"
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Are Glowing, Solar Smart Roads the Future?

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  • by Camel Pilot ( 78781 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @12:40AM (#47006345) Homepage Journal

    What is going to prevent these plates from getting scratched and rendered useless shortly by studded tires, gravel, snow plows, etc.

    i think solar roof tiles is a much better idea.

  • Costs?!?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ErikTheRed ( 162431 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @12:46AM (#47006361) Homepage

    I've seen a pile of articles on this, and never once in them has anybody even scratched the topic of cost. Which would kind of be important, one would thing. Turns out, they don't know or aren't saying. From their FAQ:

    "We are not yet able to give numbers on cost. We are still in the midst of our Phase II contract with the Federal Highway Administration and we'll be analyzing our prototype costs near the end of our contract which ends in July, 2014. Afterward, we'll be able to do a production-style cost analysis."

    There are a hundred billion cool ideas out there, but if they're not cost effective than who cares?

  • Idiots. IDIOTS! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @12:51AM (#47006387)
    The NUMBER ONE infrastructure budgeting problem in America right now is that roads cost too much. Not bridge repair or aging electrical grids or anything like that. Just purely by the dollars, it's the cost of roads. I know! Let's make them more expensive for a reason that solves a problem that doesn't exist. My headlights + titanium fleck paint means I can see the lines just fine. I also don't need the road to literally tell me it's raining or snowing or below zero. The road tells me that already just be looking at it.
  • by Strange Ranger ( 454494 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @12:51AM (#47006397)

    Our roads need to be repaired almost constantly. How does this improve the situation? How about a dumb road that does it's job for 80 years straight?

  • by rioki ( 1328185 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @05:56AM (#47007269) Homepage

    snow tiers != studded tires

    The tires you leave on from around October to March are definitely not studded tires. Having studded tries sound like a really bad idea until you are close or below the freezing point. The studs provide little to none traction on a road with no snow or ice. The reason why you have winter / summer tires is because the rubber has different optimal operating temperatures. In summer with winter tires they are to sticky and you waste fuel, in winter with summer tires they are to rigid and you have only little traction.

    The places where you have a snow cover for multiple months on end it may make sense to have studded tires, since you won't need to put on snow chains. But then you are normally forced (and it is sensible) to a rather low speed when you have studded tires by law.

  • It's a pipe dream. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chas ( 5144 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @07:14AM (#47007513) Homepage Journal

    They simply won't stand up to the wear and tear.

    They talk about how such a road can withstand loads in excess of a quarter million pounds.

    Okay. But what about SHEARING FORCES? In a lot of cases this, not straight downward pressure, is what tears up roadways.

    You also have heave in the roadways. Now, most roadways are built in such a way that heave is minimized, but there still is some that has to be factored in.

    Also, what will weeks/months/years of thermal and physical stresses do to the surface? Here in Chicago, the roadways get replaced every 5-10 years.

    How do these things handle a puddle of burning gasoline from an accident? Or howsabout an entire carbecue raging away on the surface?

    And once the surface is breached (and it WILL be breached), you have an environmental hazard on your hands.

    And how much will it cost to build these things? Compare the coverage to an asphalt or reinforced concrete roadway on materials cost alone. Not to mention the specialty labor for installation. ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE.

    You're also going to be installing this expensive road surface in areas that traditionally don't get much sun.

    Rush hour anyone?

    Currently, most solar cells STILL don't make back their manufacturing costs within the lifetime of the product.

    As for loss of transparency due to wear? "It is thought to have a maximum reduction" basically means "They don't know, but they'll ass-pull a number out for you."

  • by stoploss ( 2842505 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @08:27AM (#47007817)

    Using solar PV for keeping snow off roads would be dumb. Thanks for pointing that out, Captain Obvious.

    Your "Captain Obvious" comments would be better directed to Solar Roadways, who are marketing this PV system and touting its electrically-powered snow melting functionality (again, apparently grid-tied power draw to provide the radiant heat). "We designed our panels so the heaters are driven by the grid..."

    I'm not entirely convinced they're legit, given this apparent cost of operation oversight (or misleading marketing). I will also note that they are using indiegogo to beg for donations rather than kickstarter. With indiegogo they get to keep all donated monies even if they don't reach their goal. They are trying to get money to scale up for production, but they claim they don't have any idea what their production costing would be. So, that's also "interesting".

    Read their FAQ. For example, they claim their tiles can't be stolen because the other tiles in the roadway would wirelessly track a removed tile. Apparently they haven't heard of Faraday cages, either. If meth heads can manage to perform organic chemistry, I guarantee they can rig a functional Faraday cage.

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban