Self-driving cars have captured the limelight when it comes to how you will get around in the future, but one Kansas City technology startup is looking at the road itself.
Integrated Roadways is developing "smart-pavement" technology that would not only help increase roadway safety but could also serve as the platform for Wi-Fi for cars and other future mobility services.
"Smart pavement is a factory-produced pavement system that transforms the road into a sensor, data and connectivity network for next-generation vehicles," said Tim Sylvester, founder, CEO and president of Integrated Roadways.
The road system uses high resolution fiber-optic sensors and other technologies inside the pavement to detect vehicle position in real time as well as roadway conditions. This technology would detect crashes as they occur and automatically notify emergency responders to those crashes.
Integrated Roadway's smart pavement is about to be put to the test. The company announced this spring that the Colorado Department of Transportation has awarded a $2.75 million contract for a five-year smart pavement project.
The company will build about a half-mile of smart pavement on the highway to collect data on run-off-the-road crashes as well as automatically alert authorities of the crashes.
Unlike most road construction where crews build the roadway on site, smart pavement is a collection of precast, factory-built concrete slabs that are shipped to the construction site on and then positioned into place.
"A comparison I hear all the time is that these are like carpet squares ... or Legos," Sylvester said.
This method allows roads to be built faster, last longer and reduce maintenance and repairs.
Eventually, Sylvester envisions the roads paying for themselves through revenue generated by selling access to data, connectivity and services.
Initially though, the primary use will be the collection of real-time data about vehicles and traffic. The data won't track where your car goes or how fast you're driving, Sylvester said.