The Marriage of Technology and Road Infrastructure

The future of road infrastructure likely includes wireless electric charging, innovative construction materials, and more data collection. Will cities remember to prioritize pedestrian safety, too?

Read Time: 2 minutes

July 26, 2022, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

As technology becomes more and more embedded in transportation, Skip Descant, writing in Governing, investigates how road infrastructure might change to accommodate new technologies. With more vehicles requiring electric charging, “Converged and coordinated sectors like energy and transportation are the prerequisite to effectively growing the widescale adoption of EVs, experts say.”

According to Allie Kelly, executive director of The Ray, a ‘technology testbed’ in Georgia, “We can’t support electrified transportation without building at-scale EV charging hubs. And we can’t support functionality like platooning or functionality like Level 5 autonomy without building the digital and the physical infrastructure to support more connectivity, and to leverage data and transportation with connected and autonomous vehicles.”

To prepare for the future of transportation, “Energy, transportation and charging hubs are coming together in the form of initiatives like using roadway rights of way for the installation of solar fields to generate electric power.” Descant adds that some cities and states are experimenting with new road building materials, such as recycled car tires. 

There are challenges on the regulatory side,too. Urban Movement Labs, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit transportation and urbanism think tank, “is working to develop an ‘integration manual’ to help cities understand the regulatory landscape, and other concerns, for systems like these.”

As the article points out, new technologies, such as delivery drones and robots and autonomous vehicles, are already proliferating. Meanwhile, pedestrian death rates keep growing. “For everything else we do, safety’s got to be an imperative. And we use this moment to advance safety,” said Mark Rosekind, former administrator with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and chief safety innovation officer at mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) company Zoox. But while technology makes lofty promises for speed and efficiency, cities continue to lag behind on low-tech improvements that could reduce traffic deaths and limit the impact of human—and, in the future, autonomous vehicle—error behind the wheel.

Sunday, July 24, 2022 in Governing

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Green bike lane with flexible delineators and textures paint in Hoboken, New Jersey

America’s Best New Bike Lanes

PeopleForBikes highlights some of the most exciting new bike infrastructure projects completed in 2022.

January 31, 2023 - PeopleforBikes

Sharrow bike markings on black asphalt two-lane road with snowy trees

Early Sharrow Booster: ‘I Was Wrong’

The lane marking was meant to raise awareness and instill shared respect among drivers and cyclists. But their inefficiency has led supporters to denounce sharrows, pushing instead for more robust bike infrastructure that truly protects riders.

January 26, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

A tent covered in blue and black tarps sits on a downtown Los Angeles sidewalk with the white ziggurat-topped L.A. City Hall looming in the background

L.A. County Towns Clash Over Homelessness Policies

Local governments often come to different conclusions about how to address homelessness within their respective borders, but varying approaches only exacerbate the problem.

February 3 - Shelterforce Magazine

Rendering of mixed-use development with parks and stormwater retention on former Houston landfill site

A Mixed-Use Vision for Houston Landfill Site

A local nonprofit is urging the city to consider adding mixed-use development to the site, which city officials plan to turn into a stormwater detention facility.

February 3 - Urban Edge

Aerial view of downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin at sunset

Milwaukee County Makes Substantial Progress on Homelessness

In 2022, the county’s point-in-time count of unhoused people reflected just 18 individuals, the lowest in the country.

February 3 - Urban Milwaukee