Intelligence at the edge is driving our roads and highways to flow more smoothly—and safely. And it’s all thanks to the massive amount of new technology and innovation transforming transportation.

So, what’s the big breakthrough when it comes to our roads and highways?

Actually, it’s not just one new technology, but rather the combination of several technologies—all integrated, all working together—that’s changing the way we get around. This includes sensors for managing traffic flows and detecting potholes, autonomous vehicles, and even roads that generate power.

Below we take a look a just a few innovations in transportation that you’re likely to see on the road soon:

Traffic Lights that Talk to Each Other

While predictive signaling and adaptive traffic lights have helped improve traffic flow over the past several years, today’s lights are communicating with each other with networked systems and sensors to manage traffic in real-time. Connected lights forward information to each other with instructions and signaling strategies to optimize traffic based on current flows.

Cars that Prevent Accidents

Smart cars are also joining the conversation with the ability to communicate with highway sensors to prevent accidents or at least reduce their impact. For example, a smart car could communicate with traffic sensors and integrated highway systems to automatically stop the vehicle in the event a driver is incapacitated or an accident is about to occur.

Roads that Generate Power

While early tests suggest there is still work to be done, solar roads, which use solar panels instead of asphalt, are gaining traction in countries around the world, including China, France, the Netherlands, and the U.S.

Solar roads bring the benefit of utilizing already allocated public space for the placement of panels, while having the ability to serve local communities’ power needs via easy access to homes and businesses. Check out the National Geographic video below on solar roads, including the adoption challenges that still lie ahead.

While transportation innovation has been ongoing for more than a hundred years, we’re on the verge of a whole new world of smart roads, highways, and vehicles driven by connected intelligence. Be on the lookout for these and other smart technologies on your next road trip!

Solar Roads: Can Streets Become Giant Solar Panels? | National Geographic