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(io9)   Old and busted: Smart cars. New hotness: Smart roads   (io9.com) divider line 37
    More: Cool, Smart Road, smart car, communications device, heating elements, fossil fuels, Utopia  
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1941 clicks; posted to Geek » on 05 Mar 2014 at 10:12 PM (37 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



37 Comments   (+0 »)
   
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2014-03-05 08:51:02 PM  
I'm all for it, but that sounds crazy expensive.  I'd settle for just the solar panels and the heaters.  I'm not sure we need signage every 12 feet.
 
2014-03-05 10:28:17 PM  
Psssh, they can't fix the existing dumb roads, now.
 
2014-03-05 10:38:07 PM  
How about we fix the dumb drivers first?

// dude the gray car
// why don't you have your lights on
// it's dark and raining
 
2014-03-05 10:38:42 PM  
/// dude _in_ the gray car
 
2014-03-05 10:46:04 PM  
Things that immediately come to mind:

1. Will it stand up to ten 50-ton trucks an hour for years on end? Asphalt erodes, shears, compresses and flows over time.

2. How does it work as a solar panel when it's horizontal and the sun is never directly overhead?

3. Won't it cost far more than an asphalt road, which is already insanely expensive to build?

4. What size expansion joints will you need for this material to handle temperature changes over the year?

I think these inventors need a few years' very unsexxay education in asphalt.
 
2014-03-05 10:50:14 PM  
The roads must roll.
 
2014-03-05 10:54:31 PM  
This is the least worst bad idea I've heard all day.
 
2014-03-05 11:02:58 PM  

Suckmaster Burstingfoam: Things that immediately come to mind:

1. Will it stand up to ten 50-ton trucks an hour for years on end? Asphalt erodes, shears, compresses and flows over time.

2. How does it work as a solar panel when it's horizontal and the sun is never directly overhead?

3. Won't it cost far more than an asphalt road, which is already insanely expensive to build?

4. What size expansion joints will you need for this material to handle temperature changes over the year?

I think these inventors need a few years' very unsexxay education in asphalt.


1. Trucks have many wheels for a reason. It's not the total weight, it's whether the pounds per square inch on the contact patch exceeds what the surface can take.

2. Horizontal panels work just fine.

3. Sure it would cost more. Roads are already 'insanely' expensive? Can we put numbers on that? Some of the cost can be attributable to either application, too. Grading, foundation, signage, etc

I dunno if this would work, but I'm not starting from an assumption that it can't.
 
2014-03-05 11:41:46 PM  
Michigan's crater-filled roads laugh at this concept.

/freeze-thaw and water/salt intrusion would nuke this very fast here.
 
2014-03-05 11:52:22 PM  
Sounds like he read the same old science fiction story I did back in the 70s,

No, I can't remember either the author or the title, but in the story to demonstrate it the inventor put a cup of gas in a car and started it in circles in his company's parking lot where it ran for days or weeks or something. Since some part of the nation's roadways are always in the sun, he reasoned that powering and connecting all the roadways would provide energy everywhere.

I remember the idea behind the story, but little else.
 
2014-03-06 12:05:09 AM  
You know what would be smart?  Sane zoning laws so people have an easier time of living close to work.  Suburbs are a national tragedy.
 
2014-03-06 12:29:38 AM  
Roads later. Currently many parking lots are empty a chunk of daylight hours. The access paths in all parking lots are clear most of the day. Sidewalks could be used to charge batteries to light their paths at night. Household driveways could power the AC during the day while the owner is at work.

The wear on a road is a function of speed and load. First gen in low speed places for starters. Busy roads have a higher covered time, so coverage would start with less busy roads.

Nanosolar uberpanels could cover all the roofs of a warehouse district and dump into a local DC network. Either use it there or convert it into high grade AC.
 
2014-03-06 12:40:27 AM  

StopLurkListen: Suckmaster Burstingfoam: Things that immediately come to mind:

1. Will it stand up to ten 50-ton trucks an hour for years on end? Asphalt erodes, shears, compresses and flows over time.

2. How does it work as a solar panel when it's horizontal and the sun is never directly overhead?

3. Won't it cost far more than an asphalt road, which is already insanely expensive to build?

4. What size expansion joints will you need for this material to handle temperature changes over the year?

I think these inventors need a few years' very unsexxay education in asphalt.

1. Trucks have many wheels for a reason. It's not the total weight, it's whether the pounds per square inch on the contact patch exceeds what the surface can take.

2. Horizontal panels work just fine.

3. Sure it would cost more. Roads are already 'insanely' expensive? Can we put numbers on that? Some of the cost can be attributable to either application, too. Grading, foundation, signage, etc

I dunno if this would work, but I'm not starting from an assumption that it can't.


Horizontal panels get suboptimal output for most of the day. There's also the issue that in heavy traffic conditions, the panels get shaded out. Collection of road film on the road would also reduce the light reaching the photovoltaic cells. That impacts the cost effectiveness of the idea. Another issue is that the road surface needs to be transparent. This suggests a surface that would be polished smooth. That would be slicker than snot  to drive on in any but the absolute best conditions. There's also the issue that road surfaces are subject to a lot of damage. How long would the polished surface actually be clear, anyway? The PV road is an idea that has huge problems, to the point where it probably isn't worth doing. We'll probably have fusion generators online before any of them got satisfactorily solved.
 
2014-03-06 12:43:12 AM  
 translucent and high-strength, it is rough enough to provide great traction, yet still passes sunlight through to the solar collector cells embedded within, along with LEDs and a heating element. It is capable of handling today's heaviest loads under the worst of conditions. Weatherproof, it protects the electronics layer beneath it.

In other words "we would like to build a road out of transparent unobtanium, that works on unicorn farts.
 
2014-03-06 12:51:52 AM  

wildcardjack: Roads later. Currently many parking lots are empty a chunk of daylight hours. The access paths in all parking lots are clear most of the day. Sidewalks could be used to charge batteries to light their paths at night. Household driveways could power the AC during the day while the owner is at work.

The wear on a road is a function of speed and load. First gen in low speed places for starters. Busy roads have a higher covered time, so coverage would start with less busy roads.

Nanosolar uberpanels could cover all the roofs of a warehouse district and dump into a local DC network. Either use it there or convert it into high grade AC.


Even parking lots don't stay perfectly smooth for long. Another thing is tires. They're relatively soft. They're black. Every time someone accelerates or brakes hard, you get black marks. More loss of efficiency. Roofs normally collect a lot less filth, and people don't drive on them. That's where the solar panels go.
 
2014-03-06 01:55:13 AM  
Solar panels for use as a driving surface: unlikely.
Embedded lighting in the road surface: brilliant.

Others in the thread have already pointed out the flaws of using solar panels as a driving surface.  But the idea of embedded lighting in the road is damn good.

Instead of overhead lights illuminating streets at night, I'd much rather see directional embedded lights like you see with airport runways.  Less light pollution, lower power bill.

Crosswalks should have embedded flashing lights - cheaper and less ugly than overhead signals, safer than flags and none of the above.

Intersections of high speed roads should have embedded red lights at the stop stripe in addition to overhead signals.
 
2014-03-06 03:02:45 AM  
In addition to some of the potential issues already raised, I wonder what it would do to construction times. Roads already take a very long time to construct. TFA only showed one pic that showed any kind of installation, but if it's significantly longer to install the panels than to lay down asphalt, a lot of municipalities might be less likely to endure the added construction times.
 
2014-03-06 03:02:54 AM  
I had this idea many years ago. Good thing I didn't patent the idea.
 
2014-03-06 03:10:34 AM  
As mentioned above, I'd settle for a decently built road as it is. The majority of roads I drive on are embarrassing. Between corrupt politicians and crooked construction companies, I don't know who to blame...
 
2014-03-06 03:13:50 AM  

blacksharpiemarker: As mentioned above, I'd settle for a decently built road as it is. The majority of roads I drive on are embarrassing. Between corrupt politicians and crooked construction companies, I don't know who to blame...


You can't blame both? Hmmm...
 
2014-03-06 04:05:32 AM  
This is one of those stories that gets trotted out every few years.  The only difference is they are actually building 15' of "test" road.
 
2014-03-06 04:37:39 AM  
Or one could just build roofs over all roads and put solar panels on top of them.
bonus would be reduced light pollution and less snow removal and hydroplaning problems
 
2014-03-06 05:11:34 AM  
Cool idea, but it sounds insanely expensive. Also, how well will those panels work after a year of traffic? How often will they have to be replaced / fixed? ...And not yet mentioned in this thread (that I can see): what kind of particles will be produced from the wear and tear of these roads? What kind of environmental effect will this have?

IMO a better idea would be to make the roads white. It would help reduce global warming and be more visible at night. Cheaper, too.
 
2014-03-06 05:40:46 AM  
It is capable of handling today's heaviest loads under the worst of conditions. Weatherproof, it protects the electronics layer beneath it.

I'd love to know how they plan to build a road that can withstand the punishment current roads are subjected to. What supertech do they think they have that can withstand the weather and the constant punishment from big trucks? Oh that's right. They haven't invented it yet. Still no flying vehicles and we haven't come up with anything better than asphalt.

Capable of handling the worst conditions? Smog. Inclement weather(rain, lake effect snow, etc). I'd like to see it clear 4 feet of snow at a time. Or deal with Beijing's smog. Or Seattle's constant rain. They've got some serious technical hurdles to overcome. Once that's done they have to find a way to pay for it because it's not going to be cheap.

 
2014-03-06 07:19:45 AM  

lordargent: How about we fix the dumb drivers first?

// dude the gray car
// why don't you have your lights on
// it's dark and raining


// dude in the black sub
// why don't you have you lights on
// its 5:!5 am and dark
// Oh, you are a Prairie Village, KS Police officer on Mission RD.
// Never mind
 
2014-03-06 07:29:19 AM  

diaphoresis: blacksharpiemarker: As mentioned above, I'd settle for a decently built road as it is. The majority of roads I drive on are embarrassing. Between corrupt politicians and crooked construction companies, I don't know who to blame...

You can't blame both? Hmmm...


Both sides are obviously bad...
 
2014-03-06 07:51:16 AM  

Lsherm: I'm all for it, but that sounds crazy expensive.


Essentially this.  If they can make it reasonably cheap (accounting for the cost savings we'd see from the electricity) and reasonably durable (i.e. not having to be replaced or repaired more often than traditional roads), then yeah, go for it.

I'm skeptical as to whether that's all possible right now though.
 
2014-03-06 07:57:50 AM  
Roll a few hundred dump trucks full of gravel over it and then jack-knife a dozen semis on it and then get back to me.

/then do the same again only at 30 degrees in freezing rain
 
2014-03-06 08:10:15 AM  

Dinjiin: Solar panels for use as a driving surface: unlikely.
Embedded lighting in the road surface: brilliant.

Others in the thread have already pointed out the flaws of using solar panels as a driving surface.  But the idea of embedded lighting in the road is damn good.

Instead of overhead lights illuminating streets at night, I'd much rather see directional embedded lights like you see with airport runways.  Less light pollution, lower power bill.

Crosswalks should have embedded flashing lights - cheaper and less ugly than overhead signals, safer than flags and none of the above.

Intersections of high speed roads should have embedded red lights at the stop stripe in addition to overhead signals.


We have that at a few busy intersections in Sugar Land. LED lights that come on with the turn arrows to mark the triple turn lanes so you don't cross from one lane into another.

It's pretty cool and it works well.
 
2014-03-06 08:30:06 AM  
This guy has been working on these panels for a while now.  I always thought it was a cool idea, but probably not feasible for public road ways.  However, I would love to see these marketed to consumers for use in driveways.

No more shoveling, lights up at night, and powers your house.  Depending on daily power output, it could prove cost effective over the long term when you factor in driveway repairs due to ice and plow damage.

/plus, no more shoveling
 
2014-03-06 08:40:14 AM  
Rubber roads and asphalt tires.
 
2014-03-06 08:59:40 AM  

Driedsponge: This guy has been working on these panels for a while now.  I always thought it was a cool idea, but probably not feasible for public road ways.  However, I would love to see these marketed to consumers for use in driveways.

No more shoveling, lights up at night, and powers your house.  Depending on daily power output, it could prove cost effective over the long term when you factor in driveway repairs due to ice and plow damage.

/plus, no more shoveling


I have my doubts that a road powered by solar panels will have a high enough energy-to-heat ratio to melt snow and ice when the temperature drops below 30 degrees.
 
2014-03-06 09:26:02 AM  

UNAUTHORIZED FINGER: Rubber roads and asphalt tires.


Ah, damnit. There's a Darkwing Duck episode where exactly that happens but I can't seem to figure out which one it was. Gyah. I have all of the episodes on my home computer but I'm not at home right now.
 
2014-03-06 09:45:56 AM  
Found it. The episode is called Extinct Possibility. Sorry, no screen shots since I'm on my phone and at work.
 
2014-03-06 09:52:15 AM  

Feepit: I have my doubts that a road powered by solar panels will have a high enough energy-to-heat ratio to melt snow and ice when the temperature drops below 30 degrees.


Hollie Maea and others ran the numbers in this thread.

Funny thing about melting off snow and ice -- if the snow gets enough of a head start to cover the road, it reflects away most of the incoming solar energy, because it's, you know, white. If you can get and keep the road surface warm enough, you can prevent the snow from accumulating -- but again, that takes A LOT of energy, and when it's actually snowing, you're not getting much sunlight coming in.

All TFA's confidence aside, that translucent and durable top layer is still fantasy. I don't think we'll see substantial progress on this until we can lay down self-healing/self-repairing roadbeds, and I think that's still many years in the future.
 
2014-03-06 09:52:17 AM  

Feepit: Driedsponge: This guy has been working on these panels for a while now.  I always thought it was a cool idea, but probably not feasible for public road ways.  However, I would love to see these marketed to consumers for use in driveways.

No more shoveling, lights up at night, and powers your house.  Depending on daily power output, it could prove cost effective over the long term when you factor in driveway repairs due to ice and plow damage.

/plus, no more shoveling

I have my doubts that a road powered by solar panels will have a high enough energy-to-heat ratio to melt snow and ice when the temperature drops below 30 degrees.


As a driveway, it does make a much better idea......  Though it may not collect sufficient solar power by itself (to power a whole house) , it could certaily augment an existing system.....
 
2014-03-06 09:59:14 AM  
And one more quick reality check: instead of using solar panels under the road to collect energy to run heating elements to remove ice from the road -- why not just, um, make the road out of something black, which would absorb solar energy and convert it to heat with maybe 90% efficiency?

I know, I know -- if you convert solar energy to electricity, you can store it for later. But that's just pushing off the problem onto battery technology, which is also nowhere near what we'd need for this kind of application.
 
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