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Smart highways? Not so fast

Posting in Technology

glowing highway lines

Last month, we wrote about a stretch of highway in the Netherlands being used to test out special lane markings that glow in the dark and, theoretically, reduce energy and infrastructure needs. Well, it looks like the smart highway of the future is hitting a few bumps.

A little more than two weeks after the the trial started, the lines are being "faded out." According to a press release from Heijmans, the engineering firm behind the highway:

As expected, the 'real life' trial enables us to learn from the environment and users, like humidity and user experience. We will use these insights to introduce an update to the Glowing Lines 2.0 version. In the meantime we have temporarily faded out the lining to prevent any confusing situations for road users.

The idea is that the markings use a special paint that absorbs sunlight during the day and that light is released for eight hours at night (it's not clear what happens during longer, dark winter nights). The problem that developed during this trial was that the markings were "sensitive" to substantial rainfall, giving off varying amounts of light, according to BBC. The other problem: people driving with their headlights off to see how the illuminating lines work (that's not the intention of the glowing lines).

Of course, these are the trials of innovation. Sometimes, oftentimes, ideas fail and need tweaking. The key is knowing which ideas to scratch completely and which ideas to devote more resources to when they fail. For the companies behind the glowing highway, it will be the latter.

"As planned, we are working on developing Glowing Lines version 2.0, which will be ready for this summer. It will then be introduced on a larger scale in the Netherlands and abroad."

Though not in the United Kingdom. According to the BBC, the UK Highways Agency said "luminescent road paint would be unsuitable for use in this country."

Photo: Studio Roosegaarde

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— By on May 9, 2014, 3:04 PM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure