Transportation systems worldwide could be on the verge of a massive overhaul. As new research and technology groups are exploring unique ways to enhance our infrastructure, a key player in this market is the development and implementation of smart roads. As traffic and population continues to rise, it seems now is the perfect time to find ways to make roads safer, more efficient and technologically advanced – especially for the trucking industry.

One key upgrade is smart road technology. In short, a smart road is a highway lined with sensors that collect and analyze data from drivers. The purpose is to monitor wear and tear, but also to alert vehicles about congestion or automatically signal for assistance when accidents occur.

Benefits of Smart Roads

While the implementation of smart roads has its fair share of obstacles (we’ll discuss those later), the benefits for the transportation industry could be monumentous. Particularly as it relates to driver shortages. The hope is that shortages may level out once connected vehicles are able to acquire real-time updates for improved safety and working conditions.

Coupled with the rise of smart electric trucks, the industry as a whole is on the verge of a major shift. And all parties stand to benefit. We’ve already begun seeing the implementation, and effectiveness, of autonomous vehicles. As the integration continues, we can expect to see a resurgence of truck drivers willing to strap into their seats and embrace the vastly improved roadways heading their way.

Improving Logistics

From a logistics standpoint, drivers are seeing their trucks equipped with the finest and most innovative developments. This helps ensure safety, efficiency and strategy while delivering their loads from one destination to the other.

Electronic logging devices have become mandatory in nearly all commercial trucking operations in the United States. These are key elements that electronically track and record a driver’s hours of service to make sure they are operating under the restrictions and requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This has caused its fair share of debate within the industry. Some argue the restrictions make it harder to stay afloat in a highly competitive market, while others argue the opposite, saying it levels the playing field.

Staying Connected

One of the biggest revolutions surrounding the trucking industry is connectivity. While smart road technology is still in testing phases, other systems are being developed, tested and implemented now to keep fleets connected 24/7. Trucks designed for the future will be intertwined with other vehicles, local infrastructure, the cloud and drivers. This includes the interior components of the truck as well. New and unique assistant functions are continually being discussed and analyzed.

Smart Road Challenges

With regard to smart roads, there are many obstacles that must be overcome before installation can begin across major interstates and eventually smaller highways and residential areas.

  • Cost. Early estimations say the necessary technology will cost nearly twice as much as conventional roadways. However, experts say the high costs are worth the investment because of the money that could be saved on maintenance, emergency situations and traffic flow.
  • Design. Smart roads require concrete slabs with wi-fi connectivity, including all the necessary embedded fiber-optic pressure sensors. But when electronics are involved, the roads must be protected from moisture. Concrete waterproofing quickly becomes an essential part of the operation, along with making sure highways are constantly maintained as weather conditions change.
  • Connectivity. Communication must be timely, accurate, and dependable – from vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure. Countless trials in all fields will need to be thoroughly vetted prior to mass production. Are the roads responsive with traffic signals? Will a lane departure warning alert from one vehicle cause an issue with the system? How will a semi-autonomous and a fully autonomous truck handle the changes of this newly designed highway concept? All of these concerns will need to be controlled and approved prior to a widescale implementation of smart roads in the United States.

Improving the Roadways

Vehicle-to-infrastructure technology is a key building block to creating the most efficient, technologically advanced smart roads possible. When trucks are properly equipped with this type of on-board computer system, the drivers are alerted prior to construction, lane closers, congestion or accidents.

There is also the potential to sync with traffic signals – meaning the road will be able to communicate with the driver that an upcoming light is about to turn red. This can help prevent both collisions in the intersections or rear-ending accidents.

While highways and interstates continue to innovate, so do fuel efficiency standards for those on the road. More and more companies are experimenting with efficient and environmentally friendly fleets to prepare them for the smart roads of the future. Aerodynamic designs, ultra-clean trucks and technology-driven companies are continually figuring out ways to keep the supply chain moving and create a more sustainable business model.

The future is now for the trucking industry, thanks to new smart road technology. While it may seem like we’re still years away from developing the most cost-effective highway system imaginable, it’s closer than it seems. The importance of connecting truck drivers with the roads they travel continues to grow alongside the need to stay competitive in this highly evolving market.

The benefits seem to outweigh the costs, and now it’s only a matter of time until the data starts pouring in. You can rest assured that your partners at Inland Truck Parts and Service are standing by, ready to make sure your truck is fully maintained and ready to make the journey – both in the real world and cyber world. Contact your local partners and schedule a routine appointment today!