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Smart roads pave a connected path to innovation

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Smart roads // Illustration by Kate Walker

Smart roads pave a connected path to innovation

 

The Future. Roads may be turning into tech devices. The development of smart roads could power cars, provide internet access, and create a self-funding data market, fixing present problems while preparing for future ones. While it would require more money than the U.S. has allocated for road repair, a mixture of public investment, private partnerships, and a new toll system could jumpstart the travel transformation.

Intelligent interstate
The $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act has finally passed, and TechCrunch’s Tim Sylvester believes that the best way to improve our roads is to turn them into something more.

  • Sylvester argues that turning roads into a “data and communications platform” through private-public partnerships could allow a diverse array of businesses and the government to monetize driver data.
  • For example, businesses can pay to access smart road data to know how many drivers regularly pass by their establishments.
  • That will, in turn, make the new roads pay for themselves (just like cell and internet infrastructure) making spending more efficient.
  • Also, roads could be outfitted with 5G wireless access and remote EV charging, which would both improve broadband access and support mass EV-adoption.

Smart roads could also give the government the ability to improve traffic management, optimize city planning, monitor vehicle safety, and better understand the environmental impact of driving.

Repair jam
The $100 billion allotted in the infrastructure bill (meant to repair the roughly four million miles of public roadways) may seem like a lot, but we’ve unfortunately fallen way behind in our repairs for decades. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 43% of our roads are in “poor or mediocre condition,” putting us $435 billion behind in needed repairs.

That backlog is staggering when considering that paved roads were only introduced a century ago. Plus, the Federal-Aid Highway Act — the law that funded the interstate highway, called “greatest public works project in history” — passed just over 60 years ago. Maybe it’s time we one-up ourselves.