With high speeds, dense traffic, and construction, highway driving is not for the faint of heart.
The state of Colorado is looking to make it a little less stressful, as it rolls out a pilot project for what it calls “smart pavement” – essentially, roads studded with sensors to monitor all sorts of variables.
Because, according to the Colorado DOT’s ‘RoadX’ division, “Data is the new asphalt of transportation.”
The smart pavement project is a collaboration with a company called Integrated Roadways. Integrated Roadways implements pre-cast concrete slabs that are equipped with sensors and routers and are able to obtain and share information relating to traffic patterns, road hazards, and even dispatch help when a vehicle drives off the road.
The five-year pilot will apply the technology to a half-mile strip of Colorado’s Highway 285, and the state says it hopes to learn a lot about vehicle behavior and traffic patterns, as well as derive concrete data to help prioritize safety or maintenance investments.
Skeptics of the technology worry that the cost would be prohibitive, as public funds for highway infrastructure always tend to be tight. But even though these smart roads reportedly cost twice as much to implement as the traditional kind, Integrated Roadways claims their total cost of ownership is 80 percent less than the standard.
On top of that, the company’s CEO Tim Sylvester tells NBC News that there are other ways to help defray the costs – specifically, in selling the data that these roads extract, including vehicle make and model, which is collected anonymously. He says this “self-sustaining infrastructure” could fund the roads, instead of upping the transportation budget.
Still, there’s a lot to be seen here, as Colorado and Integrated Roadways are both entering unchartered territory – this is the first time the technology is ever being tested on public roads.
At least Colorado is the perfect candidate for the experiment, as the state expects a population growth of 50 percent over the next two decades. Without a cutting-edge plan for its roadways, it could be facing down some serious maintenance, congestion, and safety challenges.