Tablecloth track: how smart and green technologies change roads

While technological giants discuss how self-governing cars will change the world in general and urban infrastructure in particular, the authorities of developed cities and countries set themselves more specific tasks: how to change the situation on the roads for the better with the help of existing technologies. Someone at the same time seeks to improve the energy efficiency of roadside areas. Someone – to protect the unprotected road users. Someone – to deploy the infrastructure for electric cars in such a way that their drivers do not have to think about charging on the road, which is especially important for electric public transport. The editors of ITC have collected several examples of successful use of "smart" and green technologies in the cities of the world.

South Korea: a road with wireless charging for public transport

Seoul is considered one of the most "smart" cities in the world. City authorities collect a huge amount of data on the needs of citizens, analyze and use to improve their services. But in addition to collecting information, the city has succeeded in something else.

Seoul's public transport, buses, travel on a special road surface with the technology OLEV (Online electric vehicle technology). OLEV allows you to transmit electricity wirelessly, so buses do not have to make stops to recharge the battery. Buses just go on the route, under the road surface are electrical cables that create a magnetic field. On the bottom of the buses there is a device that converts it into electricity. Such coverage is, as a rule, 5-15% of the route, this is enough to ensure uninterrupted traffic during the day. And its installation and maintenance does not require a complete replacement of the road surface in the city. Similar technology is also used in the South Korean city of Gumi.

(Image source – BBC)

A strip of road under which cables are laid out is able to distinguish cars from buses and shut off when not in use. At the same time, buses do not need large batteries. Their batteries are about a third smaller than most electric vehicles.

Some transport experts say that such an infrastructure is much more expensive than the installation of special "filling stations" for electric transport. Nevertheless, it provides Seoul with the smooth running of buses.

Europe: stops with wireless charging for electric buses

Electric buses with wireless charging go to some European cities: Utrecht (Netherlands), Turin (Italy), Manheim (Germany), several cities in the UK and others. Before the flight, they "refuel" from the outlet. At the stops along the route there are wireless charging points. On them, stopping for 10 minutes, the buses get some more energy and do not stop moving during their entire working day. The fact that for short recharging it is necessary to stop after all is the main difference from the South Korean technology that "works" in motion.

It is interesting that in Utrecht these charging points take energy from wind turbines, and in the evening, after the end of the route, they return unused energy to the city. Thus, electric buses in this city are completely "green" transport.

The Netherlands: bike paths with solar panels

The Netherlands is known for its love of green technologies and careful approaches to experiments. In the country, on tiny tracts, new generation roads for bicycles and cars are tested.

Cyclists got a cover with solar panels. During the day they accumulate energy, and in the evenings they give it to the city lighting and the traffic lights. Unfortunately, while the length of this road is 70 meters, and the authorities continue to observe the experiment.

The Netherlands: warning signals about the approach of cyclists

But this is not the only curtsey toward the beloved Dutch type of transport. Ordinary roads in the Netherlands have been equipped with LED-lamps, which begin to flash, if there is a bicyclist near the crossroads. Since this type of transport is particularly honored, the innovation protects the drivers' nerves rather than vice versa.

The system is called Bikescout. It uses a tracking radar, which measures the movement of cyclists or pedestrians 50 meters before the car. If one of them approaches, warning lamps light up on the road. The system is especially useful for road sections with poor visibility or in the dark. For work, mobile Internet is used, and there is a web application in which you can monitor the operation of the system.

The Netherlands: a road with luminescent markings

There are also several interesting projects in the automotive field in the Netherlands. The first and still a pilot – a 500-meter track with special markings. The marking is applied by luminescent paint, during the day it accumulates light, at night – it gives away. In the plans of Studio Roosegaarde, which came up with the idea – to use the paint, which will be visible depending on the weather conditions and will be able to show the drivers what kind of coverage they are on. For example, if there is ice on the road. The road is in the province of Brabant. If the project justifies itself, then it is realized in other parts of the country.

Netherlands: Soundproof fences with solar panels

Heijmans is testing a new type of noise barriers (they are commonly used along highways) that are installed along the high-speed trails around Hertogenbosch (a city in the Netherlands). The technology is called Solar Noise Barriers (abbreviated as SONOB), that is, "solar noise barriers. In fact, these are the same fences, only with solar batteries.

Barriers of 4.5 and 5 meters in height with different types of panels are used. Field conditions make it possible to understand how much energy can collect translucent and colored surfaces with panels with different configurations and in different circumstances. The technical and economic feasibility of the project will be watched by the year, if it proves successful, then the country will replace the remaining 1,250 kilometers of fences with a new "green" solution. However, the first experiments have shown that one kilometer of such a fence can provide an annual energy reserve for 50 households or 900,000 kilometers for an electric vehicle.

USA: "smart" highway for testing road technologies

In those countries of the world where the minds approach the introduction of technology at the city or country level, all future solutions run in special "live" laboratories. In the US, a version of a "living" laboratory for cars was built on the motorway in Montgomery County. The place is called Virginia Smart Road or Virginia Smart Highway.

This is a 3.5 km (2.2 mile) length of road that uses all the latest road surface materials, tests lighting, navigation, driver behavior under different conditions, e. The road is filled with sensors and cameras, equipped with devices that can create artificial rain, fog and snow, and systems that simulate the conditions of any state in the country.

That is, the "smart road" in Virginia is not about "how they drive ", But about" how they create "smart" roads. " Technology literally rolls around here, and a trip along the "smart" highway may not be a pleasant experience, but a big test, if not for that new technology will require a thick fog in the spirit of autumn weather. At the moment – it's a highway to nowhere, but in the plans of the authorities – to extend the road to 9 kilometers and make part of the U.S. Route 460, one of the highways of the country.


An attempt to save energy and reduce the harmful impact of vehicles on the environment is characteristic of developed countries. The experience of some, particularly the Netherlands, shows that you can not make expensive and super-tech projects to improve the infrastructure. For starters, it is enough to equip the solar panels with what is – and this will already give a tangible effect. In addition, any significant change requires careful testing – and this practice should also be adopted by the developed countries from developed countries on the road to transformation into a smart state.

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