Future highways will be made from self-healing, glow-in-the-dark materials and will be governed by sophisticated technologies that communicate with cars, road infrastructure and GPS systems, according to global engineering and design consultancy, Arup.
The company has put together a report called “The Future of Highways” which looks into transport needs of cities in 2050 – when it is expected 75% of the world’s population will be urban dwellers.
The report also considers how climate change, resource depletion and changes in human behaviour will shape our roads in the future
“Anticipating and researching future trends will help us move towards a connected, low-carbon future, where mobility solutions put users at the heart of design and potential challenges are addressed as early as possible,” said Arup’s global highways leader Tony Marshall. With a vast increase in the number of road users, minimising the impact and frequency of maintenance work will be critical.
The progress anticipated in the development of materials such as self-healing concrete – which produces bacteria to fill cracks when concrete gets damaged – could significantly reduce the cost of a structure, while creating a more resilient and sustainable infrastructure.
These savings could have a considerable environmental impact as 7% of the world’s CO2 emissions are currently due to concrete production.
As well as being self-healing, the report envisions that surfaces could be replaced with advanced solar panels that would generate clean and renewable power, and wirelessly charge electric cars as they are driving on the roads or are parked.
The report says vehicles will become increasingly “self-aware” so an on-line connected vehicle will broadcast and receive information on traffic, speed, weather and potential safety hazards.
As a result, cars will be able to travel closer together and react more quickly to incidents. This will open the market to people previously unable to operate vehicles such as the elderly or disabled.