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Colorado to Test Smart Pavement for Road Safety

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【Summary】Using fiber-optic sensors, the smart concrete slabs are capable of gathering information about the environment, as well as ongoing activities taking place on the surface.

Michael Cheng    Jun 09, 2018 2:30 PM PT
Colorado to Test Smart Pavement for Road Safety
author: Michael Cheng   

Smart pavements have the potential to disrupt cities, making roads safer to use and travel on. Colorado is interested in adopting this technology, as the state, through the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), has partnered with Integrated Roadways to test such revolutionary systems.

The CDOT recently awarded the startup with a $2.75 million contract to develop and test smart pavements in the state. The five-year project includes the following companies: Kiewit Infrastructure Co., Cisco Systems, WSP Global and Wichita Concrete Pipe.

How Does it Work?

The road slabs are designed to supplement the infrastructure of connected cities. Each smart pavement is capable of gathering information about the environment, as well as ongoing activities taking place on the surface. Using fiber-optic sensors, city operators could monitor the positions of vehicles in the area. In application, such real-time information could be useful for emergency response teams with access to the data.

"The pavement would be able to act like the tracking pad on your mouse, knowing the speed and direction that a vehicle travels across it is going," said Peter Kozinski, director of the RoadX program Colorado Department of Transportation.

"If a vehicle leaves the pavement at a trajectory and speed that suggests they left unsafely, the pavement would notify emergency responders that someone had ran off the road."

At the moment, Integrated Roadways and the CDOT are making final preparations for full-scale testing on local roads. A demonstration using four smart concrete slabs will be deployed this summer at Brighton Boulevard in Denver. After the event, developers will move on to trials at the east side of Red Hill Pass – a treacherous location known for car accidents.

Interestingly, the smart roads are modular and easily upgradable. Furthermore, operators can remove individual slabs from the pathway for maintenance. Integrated Roadways intends to open its products to third-party app developers, allowing such groups to leverage data from the smart pavements, including location and status of roads.

Preventing Road Accidents

An advantage to installing smart pavements in busy locations is increased safety and data collection. City operators can monitor various parts of the area without reliance on human inspectors, as information about the road is fed into the system in real-time.

It is important to highlight that the units are manufactured in factories. Because of this, installations are less complex, only requiring workers to setup the slabs at the target location. The cutting-edge roadway components do not have to be built at the work site.

"We're doing it at this location for safety and better response times," explained Tim Sylvester, CEO of Integrated Roadways. "If we can reduce the response time of emergency services, that could spell the difference between life and death."

According to the company, the technology can be utilized to support L4 autonomous cars. Due to the type of information the smart pavements monitor, data is applicable to making self-driving maneuvers more accurate. Lastly, in the era of connected cities, the new roadways are designed to facilitate high-speed data transfer and communication.

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