A team of researchers from the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV), the Centro Universitario de la Defensa de la Universidad de Zaragoza (UNIZAR), and the Tsing-Hua National University (Taiwan) has published a complete study on the latest advances and technological projects that are being carried out around the world.

Of all of them would revolutionise the way we get around and the idea we currently have of roads. The roads of the future will be able to create sounds to warn drivers of a danger on the road or if they are speeding; they will turn vehicles into sources of energy to light the street lamps; and they will be able to tell us the weight of a truck or automatically recharge electric vehicles. their signals will have nothing to do with the current ones; There will be smart crossings and they will incorporate advanced sensors and different communication devices that will reduce rescue times in the event of an accident. They will also talk to drivers, who will be notified automatically of their driving violations.

Juan Carlos Cano, researcher at the UPV’s Computer Networks Group (GRC-DISCA) and one of the authors of the study, affirms that roads “are getting smarter. The infrastructures of 30 years ago have nothing to do with the current ones, and they will change a lot over the next few decades. They will be much safer roads thanks to the great advances in telecommunications, 5G and cloud computing, among other technologies. And, in addition, they will contribute to reducing the environmental impact of vehicles. Some of the roads we present in the study look like science fiction, but they aren’t at all. In all of them they are already working somewhere in the world and all of them are technologically viable in our environment”.

In their study, the team analysed projects that are being carried out in countries such as China, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Japan, and Spain. In all of them, there is a common denominator: roads are no longer a simple physical infrastructure to transport people or goods, but become a superhighway “with communications and intelligence capabilities unimaginable decades ago”, says Professor Chai K. Toh, from the National Tsing Hua University and a member of the Royal British Academy of Sciences. For Toh, considered the father of wireless networks without infrastructure (Mobile Ad Hoc Networks), in 20 years, roads as we know them today will no longer exist, they will cease to be completely passive elements to become active. “They will begin to transform into smart roads”, highlights Toh,”with smart streetlights, smart intersections, wireless traffic signals that will provide information to drivers and will have automatic accident detection systems, as well as rapid emergency assistance, among other novelties”.

In the case, for example, of musical roads, in Japan there are already more than 30, spread over cities such as Hiroshima, Shizuoka, Oita, Gunman or Hokkaido. In the latter, engineers from the city’s Industrial Research Institute designed a project in which vehicles are turned into tuning forks. “They do it using resonance devices spread over the road surface. As the vehicles roll over them, they generate high or low notes and, in turn, music,” explains Toh. “Also”, he adds, “they exist in South Korea, where these musical highways warn drivers, generating chords of a popular song. Likewise, in Taiwan, on the Dinglin Road in Kinmen, cars traveling at 50 km / h generate a melody of El Olivo. And in New Mexico, on historic Route 66 between Albuquerque and Tijeras, drivers can hear the song America the Beautiful when they hit 45 miles per hour (72.4 km / h).”

They are not the only advances already visible. Freight roads, capable of supplying energy to vehicles, are also a reality in countries such as South Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Along with all this, there are more and more devices that allow motorways to be connected to vehicles thanks to technologies such as V2X, V2V or VANET, which warn of road hazards, accidents, traffic congestion, and even detect potentially dangerous drivers.

In the field of health and safety, technology can help reduce response times in the event of an emergency, as well as increase reliability in manoeuvres such as overtaking. Indeed, one of the latest developments by the UPV team is a new application that offers the driver greater safety when overtaking a truck – or another vehicle larger than their own.

“Installed on mobile phones”, Cano indicates, “with the rear camera oriented towards the windshield and the screen towards the driver, a video is automatically transmitted, captured by the vehicle in front, to the vehicle behind, where the most traffic is shown. ahead so that, in this way, the driver can decide if it is safe to overtake”.

The UPV researcher also points out that the combination of information and communications, together with the development of autonomous vehicles – both cars and drones -, already allow, and will do so even more in the future, to dynamically and efficiently manage the traffic, which will also result in greater security.

“In addition”, concludes Cano, “the drones will be able to warn of incidents such as accidents, collapses or speed bumps, to the approaching vehicles, thus also improving the safety of the driver and passengers.

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