Future of Highways
Imagine if you could make a seamless, integrated journey by electric bus, driverless car and bike hire – all paid for easily through your smartphone. Imagine if the highway beneath your car repaired itself, reducing disruptive road works. Imagine temperature-sensitive road markings that warn you of icy conditions, a car park that doubles as a solar panel, or pavements that turn footsteps into electricity.
These are some of the scenarios we envisage in our new report, Future of Highways. The publication explores the forces that are shaping roads, now and in the future: climate change, urbanisation, technological innovation, demographic shifts and the changing behaviours of travellers.
Understanding these trends is key to radically rethinking travel and future-proofing our highways. It’s something Arup is considering now because we want to see a future where road networks are safe, accessible and interconnected. In this future, vital road infrastructure will enable economic growth; it will be resilient, energy-efficient and sustainable.
A vision of the future
What’s driving the change? More cars, for one thing – the world’s vehicle count is expected to grow by 3% every year until 2030. Many of these vehicles will take to the streets of megacities, because the proportion of people living in cities will hit 75% by 2050. This means cities can no longer be designed around cars; vehicles must fit into cities.
New technologies will open up new possibilities. For example, concrete that uses bacteria to heal cracks could significantly reduce the cost of a structure. Roads could become giant solar panels and recharge cars wirelessly as they travel. They could even include LED lighting and heating elements to melt ice and snow.
Growing, ageing and more affluent populations will choose different ways to travel. Why bother with the hassle and expense of owning a car when you can pay just for the time it takes a smart, driverless, electric car to take you safely to your destination?
Climate change and the increasingly stringent regulations needed to mitigate its impact will also make it more and more important to plan and operate resilient, low-carbon infrastructure. With concrete production contributing 7% of global CO2 emissions, extending the life of infrastructure could make a considerable impact.
Innovation in action
Much of the innovation needed to address these challenges is already happening. The ideas in the Future of Highways aren’t science fiction. The report contains real-world case studies of radical design and forward-thinking technology.
For example, the report looks at how the town of Milton Keynes in the UK is charging electric buses wirelessly in a trial led by Mitsui and Arup. It also explores our work with The Crown Estate and Land Securities using centres to consolidate and then deliver goods to shops on London’s Regent Street by electric vehicle, taking diesel delivery vans off the road.
“The long-term goal will be to create an integrated transport network with seamless connections to multiple modes, including cars, buses, rail, and non-motorised transport. By thinking across modes, we can move towards a connected, low-carbon future.”
Automated Bicycle Storage
In Tokyo, where space is at a premium, Japanese construction company Giken has developed an underground bicycle park for secure storage and to relieve street clutter. Members place their bike on a runway and use a membership card to access the parking. The automated system then conveys the bike to a slot underground in 15 seconds. Bikes are retrieved and returned to users in a similar amount of time.
Energy from Footfall
A trial is underway in St Omer, France, to harness energy from the footfall of pedestrians. Fourteen of Pavegen’s energy tiles have been installed on part of a pavement outside a busy train station. These tiles harness and convert kinetic energy from pedestrians into electricity that then powers parts of the station. More than 5,000 people walk over the tiles each day, and it is estimated that the installation will result in a 30% energy saving for the train station over an 18-month period.
Freight Consolidation Centres
FREVUE (Freight Electric Vehicles in Urban Europe) is looking into the electrification of supply chains in eight cities to demonstrate the benefits of electirc vehicles operating last mile freight movement in city centres. Arup is leading one of two London demonstrator projects which will aim to deliver significant traffic reduction and improved air quality.
Smart & Dynamic Highways
Studio Roosegaarde and civil engineers Heijmans are developing more dynamic road concepts under ‘The Smart Highway’ umbrella. The aim is to make roads that are safer and more sustainable by using interactive lights, smart energy and road signs, responding to conditions. For example, temperature-sensitive paint could create giant snow flake-shaped warning signs on the roads to indicate icy conditions.
Smart Fare Collection
HopOn is a smart mobile payment and ticketing platform for public transport. It uses ultrasonic sound for fare validation enabling many passengers to board a bus at the same time. The validation occurs via the passenger’s smartphone and the cloud.The ultrasonic transmitter usually operates within two to three metres of the entrance of the vehicle, but can be easily calibrated to varying distances, which means no standing in line.
Synchronised Traffic Signals
Los Angeles is the first major city in the world to fully synchronise all its traffic signals. They have implemented one of the world’s most comprehensive traffic systems for alleviating traffic. The city has synchronised all 4,400 of its traffic signals by using magnetic sensors in the road to measure the flow of traffic.
Volvo Self-Drive Convoy
Over the past few years, Volvo has been testing self-driven vehicle convoys. In 2012, in the first public test, a convoy of self-driven vehicles completed a 200km (125-mile) journey on a Spanish motorway. Using wireless communication, the vehicles in the platoon “mimicked” the lead vehicle using autonomous control. Vehicle convoys can reduce congestion through more efficient use of road space and cut fuel consumption by up to 20%.
Wireless Inductive Charging for Buses
In January 2014 a fleet of eight electric buses began operation in Milton Keynes. The buses are wirelessly charged by pads in the road at either end of the route. The speedy top-ups allow the bus to complete its entire working day on battery power alone. The buses are being trialled in a programme led by eFleet Integrated Service (“eFIS”), an enabling company set up by Mitsui & Co Europe and Arup.