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A strip of roadway in the Netherlands has gotten a makeover that makes it feel like something out of a video game. Instead of ordinary white or yellow lane lines, road markings glow in the dark, eliminating the need for streetlights.
The project is the brainchild of designer Daan Roosegarde, who developed it in conjunction with Heijmans Infrastructure, a Dutch civil engineering firm. They think highways could be environments for people to interact with technology.
For now, the concept has been applied to a 0.3-mile stretch of the N329 in Oss, southeast of Amsterdam. The paint on the road markings contains a solar-powered photo-luminescent powder that recharges during the day and can illuminate the road for up to eight hours at night. Its creators hope to use it in parks as a further testing ground.
Photo-luminescent paint could improve visibility on dark stretches of roadway and in areas where lane lines are hard to see, reducing the risk of car accidents.
Roosgarde and Heijmans are also introducing “dynamic paint” that becomes visible in response to temperature fluctuations, allowing the surface of the road to communicate information to drivers. For instance, motorists will see giant snowflakes appear on the road when it is cold and slippery. When the weather warms up, the snowflakes will disappear.
Also on the drawing board are wind-powered streetlights that illuminate only when drivers are actually on the road and a designated electric vehicle lane that allows electric cars to charge while they drive.
“I was completely amazed that we somehow spend billions on the design and R&D of cars but somehow the roads – which actually determine the way our landscape looks – are completely immune to that process,” Roosegaarde told the BBC.
Roosegarde and Heijmans hope to install smart highways elsewhere in the Netherlands and around the world within the next few years. Smart Highways won the Best Future Concept at the Dutch Design Awards in 2012.
Roosegarde’s company, Studio Roosgarde, “creates interactive designs that explore the dynamic relation between people, technology and space,” according to its website.