The future of our roads

And the cars that will be on them

From roads that generate electricity to the autonomous cars on them, there are so many innovative projects in the pipeline to improve the way we move.

Since the invention of the wheel back in Mesopotamia around 5 500 years ago, humans have always been intrigued by movement. In the past 100 years we have leaped from horse-drawn carts, to steam-powered engines, shifted gears to petrol and diesel and have witnessed the introduction of electric motors.

With the explosion of digital technology and AI, our cars and roads are on the verge of fundamental disruptions in the way they are created and how we use them. Suddenly popular TV shows and movies like Back to the Future and The Jetsons don’t seem so far-fetched anymore and the next decade holds incredibly exciting changes for the automobile industry.

Here’s what experts predict the future of our roads might look like, based on the developments we’re already seeing:

Smarter more autonomous cars

With the growing interest and inclusion of artificial intelligence (AI) technology in our everyday lives – cars of the future are gearing up to become smarter and safer. We’re already familiar with key-free ignitions, motion-sensor detectors and automatic parking assistance, but AI will continue to push boundaries. If phase one was cruise control and park assist, phase two will be fully autonomous, 100% self-driving cars. Additionally, we’ll get to experience fully connected cars that are able to monitor the alertness of the driver, communicate with other cars to avoid collisions and warn them about traffic, weather, road conditions and risks. 

Electric cars

Electricity is transforming transportation and cars. According to the IEA 2019 report ‘Electric car deployment has been growing rapidly over the past ten years, with the global stock of electric passenger cars passing five million in 2018, an increase of 63% from the previous year.’ BMW is aiming to have more than half a million hybrid or fully electric vehicles on the road this year. They have also reported that they are on track to double their electric and hybrid vehicle sales by 2021 with the production of a fully electric Mini and BMW iX3 alongside their BMW i Hybrid models.

Smart Streets

As we navigate our way into a more sustainable and smarter world, we need to ensure our infrastructure is equipped to accommodate the shift. This means the surfaces we cruise along need to transform too. For example, streets that incorporate charging lanes - that power electric cars by harnessing their kinetic energy via underground magnetic plates - are a possibility.

Other features set to pave our future will likely include:

  • Glow in the dark roads – to avoid the power wastage of lengthy rows of overhead lighting, some suggest painting road lines and markings with glow in the dark paint to conserve energy and improve road visibility.
  • Temperature sensitive roads - a similar paint-related suggestion offers the idea of roads being coated with temperature and weather sensitive paints that will help drivers detect when surfaces are icy, slippery or wet.
  • Solar Roads - roads undoubtedly cover a large portion of built up cities, why not reap energy benefits from them? According to Business Insider, Solar Roadways, which are the brainchild of Scott and Julie Brusaw, “aim to replace standard asphalt roads, parking spaces, pavements and bike paths with advanced solar panels that generate clean and renewable power.”
  • Greener roads - since asphalt is a by-product of petroleum, efforts have been made to identify alternative materials - from cooking oil to algae and recycled plastic bottles - which could be used instead. These new bioasphalts could even be more durable than our existing road surfaces.

Smart Pavements

What would a world of smart roads and cars be without smart pavements to match? We’re already seeing progress in the development of pavements that can accurately detect a car’s real-time location – allowing for real-time assistance and car tracking. In Singapore, the launch of Project Bus Stop has introduced tech into everyday commuters lives with features like complimentary Wi-Fi, outlets to recharge their devices, and interactive digital display boards to keep them occupied while they wait.

Flying Cars and Drones

Think we’ve gone too far in our future predictions? Not so fast.

With the proven popularity and efficiency of Hyperloop trains, the possibility for a fast and hover-like mode of transportation is very likely. And while we may be a good few years away from making flying cars a reality, Hyperloop train technology – that operates on a system of pressurised air and magnetic tunnels – is a step in the right direction. 

Drone taxi’s may be the first realisation of part of this dream with trial operations in Dubai, Los Angeles, Dallas and Singapore scheduled for as early as 2020. Commercial use is scheduled from 2023. At launch, pilots will still be responsible for controlling these vehicles but the race for the autonomous sky has begun.

While the road ahead might be paved with incredible and unknown possibilities, a Guaranteed Future Value—from BMW Select Finance—is designed to give you complete peace of mind by shielding you from depreciation. So, no matter how much the world or surface you travel on changes, your BMW journey will always be smooth.

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