Glowing lines: the smart highway of tomorrow?

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The roads of tomorrow are shaping up to look and feel very different to the roads of today. The technology solutions of Netherland's light-emitting highway pilot project "Glowing Lines" could take us one step closer to the intelligent highway of the future.

As part of the award-winning Smart Highway concept, the Glowing Lines project is the brain child of artist Daan Roosegaarde, and building and civil engineering company Heijmans. Their vision of a smart highway is to embed technology in the road in order to increase safety, make the landscape more pleasant for drivers, and reduce environmental impacti.

Luminescent, glow in the dark lines have replaced road markings and street lights on a half kilometre stretch of highway in the Netherlands. Image credit: Studio Roosegaarde & Heijmans.

Glowing lines and snowflakes

Luminescent, glow in the dark lines have replaced road markings and street lights on two half kilometre stretches of highway at the Paalgraven junction near exit Oss, a municipality in the southern Netherlandsii.

The glowing road markings are charged by the sun during the day, emitting light at night for up to ten hours, and could potentially save energy by eliminating the need for street lights. Increased sustainability isn't the only benefit though; the roads are also transformed into much more attractive landscapes if the steel streetlights were made obsoleteii.

Luminescent paint could warn drivers of icy road conditions. Image credit: Studio Roosegaarde & Heijmans.

However, lines might not remain the only road markings to illuminate in the dark. Dynamic paint on the highway is supposed to warn drivers of icy and slippery road conditions: if the temperature drops below the freezing point, the paint activates to reveal luminescent, glow-in-the-dark cartoon snowflakesiii.

The lights on a smart highway could also be activated by embedded sensors, which would be able to detect approaching traffic. This way, the lights could turn off when the road is empty, saving energyiii.

Wind light technology could be an energy-neutral way to light the sides of the road. Image credit: Studio Roosegaarde & Heijmans.

Wind lights at the side of the road

Sustainability is one of the central drivers of the Smart Highway concept, which could be supported by the use of wind energy. The idea is that wind generated by passing cars would activate small windmills along the road, which then would generate energy to light up a lamp within the windmill, illuminating the contours of the roadiii.

Since we're used to endless stretches of concrete and steel, this vision of an intelligent highway might seem farfetched. It remains to be seen if Smart Highway technologies can be implemented on a larger scale. According to Roosegaarde and Heijmans, the Glowing Lines pilot will be expanded internationally in 2014ii.

i, R 2013, 'Smart highway by Dan Roosegaarde wins INDEX award 2013', Design Boom, 3 September, viewed 16 April 2014,

iiHeijmans 2014, 'Glowing lines premiere: first light emitting highway pilot project', Smart Highway, 8 April, viewed 16 April 2014,

iiiSmart Highway 2014, 'The intelligent and interactive roads of tomorrow', Smart Highway, viewed 16 April 2014,