The roads of tomorrow will not be like the roads of today. Sure, they might continue to share the same materials — or maybe not, I’m still crossing my fingers for solar panel roads that don’t ice over — but even then, they won’t be the same. A general shift has occurred in the transportation system, with the focus being redirected from moving vehicles to moving people.
Cities across the nation are applying road diets to their different corridors and, in most cases, welcoming more pedestrian-friendly modes of transportation as they do so. It works out well since younger generations — millennials and generation Z — have been found to not be as keen on driving as say the baby boomers, according to Lance Eliot’s Aug. 4, 2019, Forbes article, “The Reasons Why Millennials Aren’t as Car Crazed as Baby Boomers and How Self-Driving Cars Fit In.”
Between the advent of ride-sharing and autonomous vehicles, we live in an era where roadways may actually see less demand — at least in some areas of the U.S. We already saw autonomous trucks hauling Frigidaire refrigerators in 2019, some 650 miles along I-10 from El Paso, Texas, to Palm Springs, Calif. This is both exciting and yet horrifying in a way, even with the knowledge there is a human driver in the cab monitoring operations. But change waits for no one, and times are changing.
Writer Denise Fedorow shares how technology is shaping even the sides of roadways, namely streetlights and traffic signals. While drivers often pass by these elements without a second thought, cities are now utilizing them for data gathering purposes and to maintain better traffic patterns. Fedorow speaks with several city officials who are ensuring their municipalities are on the ground floor, ready for future technologies — all by getting the right infrastructure in place.
Meanwhile, Sugar Land, Texas, showcases the importance of not developing the roadways of tomorrow in a bubble; after all, what good is a transportation system if no one is using it? It has launched its own task force, which includes members of the community, to shape its future mobility plan. Lauren Caggiano writes on Sugar Land’s efforts to develop its new mobility master plan.
Partnerships are key to meeting future needs as well, whether formed with local and state universities or companies. Ford and the city of Ann Arbor, Mich., are partnering to test out the former’s innovative City Insights Studio, which features a miniature replica of the city complete with 3D-printed buildings and streets that light up to show areas of congestion. Writer Barb Sieminski shares a little bit about this project, which is also supported by several local and regional organizations to Ann Arbor.
It’ll be interesting to see what the future of roadways will be and how it morphs as technologies like AVs further develop or we are wowed by some unforeseen advance.
Until then, keep your eyes on today’s road and drive safely.