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These Solar-Powered Roads Transmit Helpful Information onto Your Windshield

July 21, 2014
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These Solar-Powered Roads Transmit Helpful Information onto Your Windshield
What if your windshield could deliver info on weather conditions and safety hazards? Ben McLeod/Flickr
Receiving notifications about weather conditions and safety hazards could soon be a reality in Indiana.

With several interstate highways intersecting in the state, it’s obvious why Indiana has been dubbed the crossroads of America.

The state itself is committed to that role and to further its reputation, Indiana is considering ways to revolutionize transportation.

In a recent Statehouse presentation, Gov. Mike Pence presented ideas outlined by a panel commissioned to prioritize state transportation needs, including everything from building a second beltway around Indianapolis to promoting driverless cars and solar-powered roads.

The panel, helmed by Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann and Langham Logistitcs head Cathy Langham, produced a 73-page report full of recommendations on where the state should focus its resources, such as designating high-occupancy-only lanes for carpooling as well as improvements for air, truck traffic and rail, the Indianapolis Star reports.

The governor intends on sharing the report with state agencies, which may inspire future transportation planning in Indiana.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the report is the four pages on innovation. Some suggestions include promoting and allowing driverless cars (once the technology is acceptable) as well as building lanes that charge electric cars while they’re moving. The solar-powered roadbeds would be heated to help melt away snow and the smart roads, or “iWays,” would be able to transmit information to drivers about the road conditions, possible safety hazards or weather conditions by projecting messages on windshields.

These concepts are not out of reach. As the Wall Street Journal reports, big tech companies like General Electric and International Business Machine Corp. (IBM) are already collaborating with city planners to invest in smart infrastructure.

In fact, IBM is testing software that can predict traffic jams up to 45 minutes before they actually clog the roadways by examining current traffic patterns. The software has proven to be about 90 percent accurate in predictions in the central business district of the pilot city Singapore. The data collected is then utilized in coordinating 1,700 sets of traffic lights to help adjust the traffic pattern.

Additionally, in Minneapolis, government officials have made bridge safety a priority since the collapse of the I-35 structure in 2007. A new bridge was designed with more than 300 sensors to track changes in temperature, corrosion and effect of winter weather. Researchers at University of Minnesota are using the data to inform how to build better bridges in the future, according WSJ. 

For now, Indiana’s transportation priorities lie with adding lanes to the central highways that pulse through the state, I-65 and I-70, as well as a bridge to connect I-69 over the Ohio River and a new partial beltway to loop around Indianapolis. But as technology continues to influence and advance our infrastructure projects, building solar-power roads may not be too far off.

MORE: Public Transportation Is Getting a Major Makeover

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