Imagine driving on the highway in your self-driving car. You are reading emails on your phone while your car suddenly slows down. You look out the window, and ”Warning! Rockslide in 1,000 feet” is written in LED lights on the road. The connected cars immediately change lane as the LED lane markings changes.

This is the future prospect of our highways. “Smart highways” is a term for incorporating different technologies into roads for both generating electricity from solar power, and improving the operations of self-driving cars. Three key technologies for smart highways are Solar Roadways, wireless charging and intelligent transportation systems.

A solar highway?


The US is covered by more than 31,000 square miles of asphalt exposed to the sun. Imagine covering all of this asphalt with solar panels. One mile of highway can generate energy for 80 houses. 31,000 square miles of solar panels can generate three times the electricity of the US consumption.

Solar Roadways  has developed roadways consisting of hexagonal, connected solar panels. To avoid destroying solar cells by painting highway lanes, LED road markers are fitted to the solar panels. By using LEDs, direct messages can be sent to drivers in a certain area, and the lane markings can change immediately if an accident occurs. Low energy heating implemented in the Solar Roadways can reduce the number of accidents occurred by slippery roads, as the temperature on the surface will stay above 32 °F.

Missouri’s Department of Transportation has announced plans to build the first public solar powered sidewalk along Route 66.

Wireless Charging

The researchers at KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) have developed technology to charge electric vehicles while driving. Electric circuits are built into roads to generate electromagnetic fields, picked up by a coil in the vehicles and converted into electricity. The induction technology provides wireless charging, and allows the battery to be reduced by 80 percent.

Solar Roadways has announced ongoing consultations with companies developing wireless charging technology. Solar Roadways has announced that at least one of their partners has tested successfully at 75 mph.

Intelligent transportation systems

By 2050, about 86 percent of people in developed countries are expected to live in urban areas, and the number of cars is expected to double. Intelligent Transportation Systems are designed to meet the future challenges of transportation. The systems will increase the efficiency on the roads by using sensors and wireless communication between the self-driving cars.

Intelligent Transportation Systems increases the cooperation between self-driving cars. To optimize the traffic, cars can change line automatically, and speed limits can change simultaneously. Collision avoidance systems will prevent the cars from crashing, and emergency systems are fitted to optimize traffic if an accident occurs.