Jun 4, 2018

It's not always easy to know when a vehicle goes off of the road. Sure, if a vehicle breaches the barrier and heads off a main highway where hundreds of other drivers are present like I-25 through Denver, the loss of control would be obvious. But what if the accident happens in a part of the roadway that is rarely traveled, and is not witnessed by another driver?

Such was the case when the vehicle of a Colorado woman veered off of U.S. 285 on Red Hill Pass. The accident was not witnessed, and her vehicle went down an embankment and landed in an aspen grove, making it difficult to spot. She wasn't found until a whole five days later and was in critical condition.

But new technology could change this, providing instantaneous alerts when a vehicle veers off road. Colorado will be the first state to test it.

"Smart Pavement" Could Save Lives
The company Integrated Roadways, led by CEO Tim Sylvester, wants to make sure that an incident like the one described above never happens again, and believes that smart pavement could be the answer. The company has engineered a pavement that goes beyond average asphalt; this roadway contains fiber-optic technology, wireless capabilities, and countless sensors that are able to detect vehicle weight, location, and speed. As such, if a vehicle were to go off the roadway, the smart pavement could automatically alert authorities to send emergency response vehicles.

Colorado First State to Test Pavement
Colorado will be the first state to test the pavement; the state recently entered a partnership between Integrated Roadways and the Colorado Department of Transportation (DOT). The partnership includes a $2.75 million contract that will result in the company's pavement being laid along Red Hill Pass, which will likely occur this winter. If the technology works as promised, the state may invest more in the future. However, the main hurdle to the technology being quickly adopted by the state, as explained by professor or civil and environmental engineering Charles Schwartz, is cost.

The firm Research and Markets speculates that this type of technology will grow from the $17 billion industry it is today to $40 billion in the next five years.

Big Dreams for Smart Pavement
The company doesn't plan to stop at pavement that can detect when a vehicle goes off the road, but instead has dreams of technology that can send drivers weather updates and traffic alerts.

Smart pavement seems like a good idea, but it's important to remember that the technology won't prevent accidents, just detect them.

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