Sustainable Roads Through Tech
HG Ventures shares ideas for shoring up tomorrow’s infrastructure for safer, sustainable pavement systems
In a new report titled The Future of Roads: The Role of Technology in Securing Vital Infrastructure, the team at HG Ventures, Indianapolis, posits our nation’s infrastructure is at a crossroads. Not only is the system, which has been in place since the 1950s, still built and maintained in much the same way it has always been built and maintained, the system is being pushed beyond its carrying capacity with many roads in the United States—and other parts of the world—in poor condition.
The authors summarize this more eloquently than I by pointing out, “Not only does the global population continue to increase, it is becoming more urban and more mobile, with more people living in more, ever-larger cities; the number of vehicles on roads is increasing, as is the volume of goods transported by road.”
The report reminds readers there is a “years-long” backlog for road repairs in just the United States. That backlog is estimated at around $700 billion in funding needs.
The authors propose we look to the entrepreneurs among us who are innovating methods of building “smarter” roads—roads that address the issues of safety, capacity and congestion, sustainability, and efficiency. “Exciting technologies are emerging from multinational companies and entrepreneurial startups alike.”
This article offers merely an overview of some of those technologies; keep in mind they require a new perspective when it comes to funding, as well.
If you look at the pavement system as an ecosystem, depicted in the graphic on this page, you can see room for the different areas to function alongside technology—or with technology built within—to make the smart, sustainable road. The authors at HG Ventures discuss technologies on, in, under and beyond the road. While many of the ideas presented in the report will be interesting to drivers, fleet managers and infrastructure designers alike, I see the elements in and under the flexible pavement as most relevant to the readers of AsphaltPro.
You can download the report for free at: hgventures.com/future-of-roads
On the road, electrification and autonomy remain talking points concerning the vehicles we drive upon the system.
In the road, the materials used for building and repairing roads in the future could look different from those used today. Of course, recycled materials—recycled asphalt pavement (RAP) and recycled concrete aggregates (RCA)—are listed among the environmentally sound choices for building materials, but the authors also discuss specific advanced, alternative and “smart” materials from specific innovators.
The authors see enormous potential to build technologies into the roads, under the surface layers, to make them smarter, safer and more sustainable. By building sensors and communication devices within—and around—the pavement, engineers and pavers allow technologies in the system to gather data to feed to the motoring public. This “sensorization” of the pavement system may well be more costly and time-intensive than laying a traditional road surface, but it can contribute to a safer roadway in the future.
The concepts outlined don’t have to be pie-in-the-sky thinking and the team at HG Ventures offers a conversational look at their potential in the 51-page report.