Solar Roadways® panels have embedded LED lights to replace paint to make road lines and signage. In early development, it was quickly realized that creating panels with glass posed a problem: it wouldn’t work to paint road lines over the solar cells, or on glass. But that realization was quickly followed by the solution: since SR panels would be intelligent, it would be possible to make road lines and signage from embedded LED lights – eliminating the need for paint and the maintenance for keeping up with painted road line marking.
Using LEDs instead of paint opens up a whole new world of options. Road and parking lot lines, verbiage, and signage now become flexible and customizable. With embedded sensors, the intelligent road can use the LEDs to warn drivers of impending danger, such as a large rock in the road. Safety can also be enhanced by making the road lines more visible, especially in dark, foggy, or stormy conditions.
The SR2 model had five colors: white, yellow, red, green, and blue. Those options were certainly sufficient for roadway applications and for functionality. But since the release of SR2, Solar Roadways® has received a steady stream of interest in the decorating options that SR driveways and parking lots can offer. Since there was so much enthusiasm for that feature, options needed to be explored… more colors would provide more choices for various holidays and entertaining. SR3 panels contain RGB LEDs which can create over 16 million different colors.
The LED lights in Solar Roadway panels can be used in many different ways to create modern traffic management systems. The flexibility of having lights instead of paint creates options never before possible. Because Solar Roadways® are intelligent, they can enhance the safety of citizens. This intelligence is expressed mostly through the LEDs. It’s the way the panels communicate with drivers and pedestrians. Crosswalks will flash and tell drivers to slow down when a pedestrian is present. Highways will warn drivers of wildlife around a curve. Roads will create detours when there is an accident. LEDs can turn red when a firetruck (or EMS vehicle) is leaving its station on a call.
The effect of switching to the modern infrastructure system that Solar Roadways® can provide would be far reaching.
AAA has sent out a call for such a system on their website entitled Making American Stronger. They write:
"America needs a seamless, multi-modal transportation system, a system of tightly-linked roads, bridges, transit systems, freight rail, airports and seaports - continuously flowing, 24/7 system. Although there have been constructive strides made in the areas of HOV/HOT lanes, GPS navigation, intelligent highway design and other technical advances, the nation’s highway system has been starved of funds for decades and remains remarkably antiquated for a world super-power.”
If there is an impending natural disaster, such as a hurricane, the LED lights in the Solar Roadways® can become the early warning system. The Department of Transportation (DOT), which has awarded SR with three rounds of funding would need to decide the standards. Perhaps the side lines would blink in red, or turn to blue, for example. The public would be educated to know that this signal means there is an impending disaster, and they need to tune in to their local news station for directives.
Countless other options would be available with flexible lines and signage driven by an intelligent infrastructure system.
AAA in their Making America Stronger campaign wrote:
“A safe, efficient and well-funded transportation system is critical to America’s national security and continued economic vitality. America’s roads, bridges and transit systems connect the fields of the heartland to the supermarket shelves, transport workers to their jobs each day, transport a variety of dangerous substances and function as evacuation routes during natural disasters. However, transportation facilities are vulnerable and must be maintained, improved and safeguarded to assure that they provide safe, reliable transportation on a daily basis and fulfill critical national security functions when needed.”
Many people have poor vision at night, especially as they get older. LED lights are much easier to see than painted road lines on dark nights. It’s expected that this Solar Roadways® feature will reduce accident rates. Solar Roadlite LED Road Studs™ in the UK have been shown to reduce nighttime accidents 70%, according the company. Solar Roadways® LED lights would provide even more visibility and would be cover much more area, which ought to reduce accidents more that than that.
Road lines are also harder to see during weather events; such as rain or snow. Often in winter conditions, snow completely obscures road lines altogether, even with the best efforts of snow plow drivers. The LED lights combined with heating elements, which keep snow and ice off of the LED lights, will improve visibility in all weather conditions, enhancing the safety of travelers.
The paint used for painting road lines is short lived product. Oregon’s DOT says that it’s goal is to repaint all of their road lines every year (although they apparently don’t reach that goal). An article published by the Federal Highway Administration estimated that in the United States alone, approximately $2 billion is spent annually on pavement markings. Inconveniences result too, from traffic delays to complaints of paint getting on vehicles as they drive in areas that have been freshly painted. All such problems could be obsolete with SR panels.
The feature of Solar Roadways’® intelligent panels and LED warning system will offer never before seen protection for large wildlife. While the load sensors cannot detect tiny animals, such as a chipmunk running across the road, they will certainly detect large animals such as deer, and warn drivers, thus lowering wildlife caused collisions.
Solar Roadways® is anxious to help keep humans and animals safer by reducing this problem.
All potential Solar Roadway applications can utilize the LED lights in a variety of ways. Highways and roads will use the LEDs for all road lines and signage. Sensors embedded in the panels can detect large objects in the road such as deer, and warn the driver to “slow down” to avoid a collision. When accidents do occur, the LEDs can be programmed in real time to quickly create a detour. If an accident is serious and an injured person needs to be quickly transported to the hospital, the LEDs can create a temporary helipad and keep drivers out of the way so a helicopter can land on the road to access the patient.
Cities will appreciate the ability to make crosswalks safer with SR panels. The intelligent panels can sense a pedestrian in the crosswalk and warn the driver to “slow down”. Even if it is a dark night and the person is wearing black clothing, the driver will realize there is an obstacle in the road, and be able to slow down in time. Cities and towns can also use the LED lights for events and celebrations, both to decorate and to create detours and redraw parking configurations as needed. Just as easily, they can revert to the default settings when the event is over.
Business owners will be able to create multiple parking lot configurations. Tighter spaces on busy days, more roomy spaces when there are fewer customers could have many advantages. Handicapped spaces can be created as needed, rather than choosing a set number of dedicated spaces.
Larger spaces for trucks and RVs clearly marked for their convenience will be just as easy as smaller spaces for motorcycles. Some business owners may want to give preferential parking spaces to certain customers: parents with babies, veterans, or EV drivers, for instance. The names of VIP guests can be written where they are meant to park, and reprogrammed upon their departure.
Business owners will also appreciate the ability to match their logo and theme colors on their parking lots and sidewalks. For hotels, that will extend to courtyards, pool surrounds, patios and walking paths. Sports arenas will no doubt want to match their team colors on parking lots and walkways. If a customer chooses to have their logo engraved into the glass panel, the LED colors can be used to enhance that image.
Airports and pilots have described various ways Solar Roadways® panels can be used at airports. The local airport in Sandpoint has expressed interest in modeling for other airports the many advantages of using SR panels. All lines and signage can be created using SR LEDs instead of paint. Pilots have voiced the need to have signage visible from the air. Even in the event that a pilot loses communication with the control tower, the airport would still be able to communicate with the aircraft by writing messages on the tarmac directing the pilot how to proceed. The LEDs would be useful in lighting a clear path for aircraft after landing, as it taxis to the gate. It’s unknown if SR panels could be employed on actual runways, and certification would be required. This interest will be pursued as funding becomes available. Helipads would be able to use the same technology at hospitals and other places.
Schools can use the same technology for playgrounds. Instead of having to choose only a few sports and games on the given playground footprint, they can offer unlimited options to their students. Teachers can create their own educational games for children. Schools can generate clean renewable energy to power their schools, while enhancing children’s education and enjoyment. Parks can use SR panels for their playgrounds and sport courts too.
Bike paths will benefit from the LED lights of SR panels. The lights can provide lines and signage just as for roads. Lanes can be created if desired. At night the lighting will enhance safety for cyclists. If desired, lights can be turned off unless they sense a bike. In that way, a cyclist will be alerted to an oncoming bike when the LEDs turn on ahead of them.
The unlimited LED colors make it easy for homeowners to have unlimited options for decorating for any holiday: red, white and blue for the 4th of July, pink and purple for Valentine’s Day, green for St. Patrick's Day – all at the touch of a button. Families can use the LED lights for events like birthday parties, both to decorate and to direct guests to the proper driveway. Homes with pools reap both additional energy collection and enhance the ambiance with panels installed as pool surrounds. Garden paths with SR panels can be illuminated for beauty and safety. Families may want to use part of their driveway, patio or a dedicated space for a sport court. LEDs will create the lines for various sports and games. Kids can play basketball and then change the court to a dodge ball configuration, or an educational game. Solar Roadways anticipates creating software for a variety of educational and entertaining games too. Children will be able to play, learn, and exercise at the same time.
Across all applications, the aesthetic benefits of the LED light cannot be overstated.
The flexibility of turning LED lights off and on and changing their colors as desired creates options never before knows to drivers and pedestrians. The verbiage and signage options are limited only be the spacing of the LEDs, i.e. high resolution images are not possible, as so many LEDs would be needed that they would cover up the solar cells and stop energy production.
Across all applications, the LED intensity can be increased, decreased, or powered down manually as the customer prefers. When they are on, they automatically adjust to the ambient light. The most intensity is needed in sunlight; the least at night.
The LED lights which were chosen for SR2 panels were not bright enough to be easily seen on sunny days; LEDs of higher intensity were chosen for our new SR3 panels, and that problem has been solved.
The panels have been specifically engineered to extend the life of the LEDs beyond the lifetime of the panels. Another way to extend their life and save energy is to keep lights off when no one is using the panels, be it a road, a bike path or a driveway. Many rural roads for example, may have no cars on them at 3:00 a.m. The lights can then be turned off. But when the road senses a car (via sensors in the panels), the LED lights will illuminate, warning other drivers that there is now an oncoming vehicle. Standards would have to be set, but we envision LED lights illuminating perhaps 1/2 mile ahead and 1/4 mile behind a vehicle.
Many are concerned about light pollution. The concern is the night sky will be less visible with so many city lights. Since SR panels provide efficient lighting at night (the photosensor will automatically turn them down at night), many municipalities may decide that overhead lights are not needed in some areas. Since Solar Roadways® panels are at the lowest point, beneath the eyes rather than above, it may be that this will reduce light pollution. Testing will reveal the answers.
The described applications for the Solar Roadways® LED lighting system combine to enhance the safety of humans and animals alike. It is hoped that the implementation of SR on a grand scale will lead to lowered accident rates, perhaps even leading to lower auto insurance rates as those statistics become available.