Why Can't We Have Glow-in-the-Dark Highways Like the Netherlands?

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Jan. 4 2013 5:10 PM

Why Can't We Have Glow-in-the-Dark Highways Like the Netherlands?

glow-in-the-dark roads in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is experimenting with photoluminescent road markers that light up at night, among other innovations.

Screenshot / YouTube

It's one thing for the rest of the world to have way cooler trains than us. America has chosen car culture, for better or worse. But now comes word that the Netherlands is building way awesomer highways, while ours are stuck in the 20th Century. The Netherlands! If this isn't a wake-up call for the United States to invest more in infrastructure, I don't know what is. (OK, maybe this.)

Wired UK reported in October that the Dutch design firm Studio Roosegaarde and infrastructure management group Heijmans have come up with a "smart highway" concept that will replace standard road markings with photoluminescent powder that charges in the daylight and glows through the night. When the temperature drops below freezing, the road will automatically light up with snowflake indicators to warn drivers of possible ice, sort of like the Coors beer cans that turn blue when they're extra cold.

Advertisement

Whether any of that will actually make drivers safer remains to be seen. (Personally, I'd rather see these guys collaborate with Coors on a special paint that makes cars glow in the dark when their drivers are full of alcohol.) The Netherlands is wisely starting small, with a pilot project in the province of Brabant scheduled to begin later this year. But those are only the first two stages of the grand Dutch plan to put our highways to shame. The next steps include windmills that light up as cars pass by, and "induction lanes" that would charge electric cars while they drive.

The video below offers a rough illustration of what this might look like. Even if it turns out not to work as seamlessly as the video suggests, the innovative spirit behind the concept is admirable—and sorely missing from U.S. infrastructure planning. The design firm behind the project says it would like to bring the concept to the United States eventually, but Americans shouldn't hold their breath. Current levels of infrastructure spending are barely sufficient to maintain our "D" grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers and our 23rd-place global ranking from the World Economic Forum.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 21 2014 9:18 AM Oh, Boy Prudie counsels a letter writer whose sister dresses her 4-year-old son in pink tutus.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:25 AM The Brilliant Fake Novels of Listen Up Philip
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 21 2014 9:39 AM The International-Student Revolving Door Foreign students shouldn’t have to prove they’ll go home after graduating to get a visa.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.