Dec 31, 2010 | Democratization of Intelligent_Transit Tech

Roads that communicate with drivers and cars that communicate with each other already exist. Unfortunately, the technology usually has been available anywhere but the United States or in high-end vehicles few of us can afford. That changed this year with the democratization of intelligent-transit technology.
Anyone with a smartphone can get a navigation app like Waze that lets you avoid traffic tie-ups, and even those without cars can use apps like Car2Gether to hitch a ride. Nearly every municipal transit system has an app that (somewhat reliably) predicts the arrival of the next bus or train. And even drunks in the Big Apple can use their smartphones to find a cab.
Intelligent infrastructure projects also grew. We saw the real-world test of a "smart highway" with variable speed limits in Washington. Projects such as Streetline are helping motorists find parking spaces in congested cities and enabling cities to set parking fees.
One of the most ambitious projects is underway in an Idaho backyard, where Scott and Julie Brusaw are testing road surfaces embedded with solar panels that not only provide clean energy for charging EVs but also feature LED displays that change traffic lanes and display warning messages in real time. A similar project in New Zealand turns roadways into inductive charging stations that could make range anxiety a thing of the past.
Looking even further ahead, Swedish architect and urban strategist Mans Tham envisions a future where Los Angeles' famed highways are covered with photovoltaic cells (pictured above) that power the very city the freeways bisect. The panels would shield cars from weather, and algae ponds along the roadside would act as a giant carbon sink.
It's way out there, but we're always encouraged by outlandish ideas. If nothing else, they get people talking and thinking about what is possible.
Image_ Mans Tham
Author_ Keith Barry

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