Intelligent technologies are advancing towards the ability to adapt automatically to the various facets of human life. Thanks to the integration of advanced technological solutions, roads able to interact with drivers, for example by providing real-time traffic information, are progressively becoming reality, road accidents and weather conditions. This is how innovative solutions such as the Smart Roads are born.
There are three fundamental goals of this new concept of mobility: enhancing the traveller's experience, actively contributing to the reduction of CO2 emissions, and, in the long term, completely eliminating road accidents.
What are Smart Roads and/or Highways?
The concept of "Smart Roads" arises from an evolution of road infrastructure towards an "Intelligent" mode, where roads are enhanced with advanced infrastructure. This intelligence empowers roads to communicate and share data, transforming them into active components for delivering value-added services to road users.
Through Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Smart Roads outline a clear and promising direction for the evolution of road engineering. What sets "Smart" roads apart from conventional ones are precisely the ITS, achieved through the implementation of advanced technologies and intelligent systems that enhance the driving experience, safety, and overall transport efficiency.
The first European road segment to become Smart is the SS 51 "Alemagna," part of the Anas Smart Road Cortina project in 2021. This Italian stretch, extending between the municipality of Ponte nelle Alpi and the Cimabanche Pass, has been completely revolutionized and highly interconnected through Smart Poles (multifunctional communication stations with road control centers), CV2X (Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything) technologies, and in-motion Wi-Fi systems to provide efficient cellular connectivity even while on the move.
What are the key features of Smart Roads?
The innovativeness of Smart Roads centers around user focus and safety. A range of benefits come together to ensure safe and seamless journeys, including driving assistance and even autonomous driving. This is achieved through dynamic notifications, road sensors, and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communication. These tools consistently monitor road conditions, identifying signs of deterioration like cracks or potholes and promptly alerting relevant authorities for timely maintenance.
In emergency situations, rapid interventions and direct user alerts are activated. Through integrated sensors, surveillance cameras, and license plate recognition systems, real-time mobility information is provided. Variable Message Signs (VMS) and LED displays prove to be effective tools for instant communication with road users.
The intelligent integration of varying factors is made possible through sensors and devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) systems, while dynamic lanes optimize traffic management and enhance infrastructure transport capacity by adjusting lane assignments based on current traffic conditions. Instant vehicle weight verification is achieved through Weigh in Motion (WIM) systems, and all these technologies converge on a unified digital platform, ensuring effective integration of existing resources.
Monitoring Critical Infrastructures
A distinguishing feature of Smart Roads, apart from providing extensive traffic data, lies in the monitoring of road infrastructure conditions and the surrounding environment. This characteristic represents a fundamental aspect of Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) systems, which involves detecting changes in materials and/or geometric properties of a structural system to assess its "health" status.
In the context of road and highway maintenance, this becomes particularly relevant for critical structures such as bridges, viaducts, and tunnels.
Smart Roads and Sustainability
Through the implementation of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), it is possible not only to effectively address traffic congestion but also to achieve a significant reduction in CO2 emissions and fuel consumption, with a decrease of up to 6%. Moreover, these systems enable the exceptional optimization of resource allocation, enhancing overall resource management by up to 50%.
Street lighting can be made more efficient by using LED lights or intelligent lighting systems that activate only when needed, thus reducing energy consumption.
The sustainable approach extends further through the use of solar panels to power both road infrastructure and the electrical grid.
The concept of Smart Roads represents a holistic approach that encompasses the entire range of functions involved in road management and its associated infrastructure. From Operation Centers to critical infrastructures, from technological communication systems to vehicles themselves and drivers, every aspect is considered.
This evolution towards Smart Roads brings substantial benefits, fully meeting the current needs of users and operators through advanced mobility solutions. In particular, freight transport and heavy vehicles benefit from increased efficiency and smarter coordination along routes.