Future road surfaces could feature advanced solar panels that generate clean, renewable power and wirelessly charge electric cars as they drive, or are parked. These panels would also feature LED lighting and heating elements to melt snow, according to Arup’s Future of Highways report, which considers how developments such as rapid urbanisation, climate change, resource depletion and changes in human behaviour will shape our roads in 2050.
Fully-automated navigation systems will enable byways to be populated by driverless cars, and that could change road design and operation. A combination of the connected car and the Internet of Things will enable vehicles to broadcast and receive information on traffic, speed, weather and potential safety hazards. As a result, cars will be able to travel together and react more quickly.
Arup asks us to imagine temperature-sensitive road markings that warn of icy conditions, car parks which double as solar panels, or pavements that generate electricity from footfall.
The report is a fillip for those inclined towards environmentally friendly politics. “For developed cities, transport infrastructure may be repurposed and adapted to accommodate greener modes of travel,” says Tony Marshall, Arup’s global highways business leader. “Motorised travel in cities will be required to fit into, rather than be at the centre of, planning decisions. In developing countries, rapid population growth and the rise in demand for mobility will require policies and measures to avoid repeating the mistakes of the developed world.”