Smart concrete could pave the way for high-tech , cost-effective roads

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 Every day, Americans travel on roads, bridges, and highways without considering the safety or reliability of these structures. Yet much of the transportation infrastructure in the US is outdated, deteriorating, and badly in need of repair.

Of the 614,387 bridges in the US, for example, 39 percent are older than their designed lifetimes, while nearly 10 percent are structurally deficient, meaning they could begin to break down faster or, worse, be vulnerable to catastrophic failure.

The cost to repair and improve nationwide transportation infrastructure ranges from nearly US$190 billion to almost $1 trillion. Repairing US infrastructure costs individual households, on average, about $3,400 every year. Traffic congestion alone is estimated to cost the average driver $1,400 in fuel and time spent commuting, a nationwide tally of more than $160 billion per year.

I am a professor in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering and the director of the Center for Intelligent Infrastructures at Purdue University. My co-author, Vishal Saravade, is part of my team at the Sustainable Materials and Renewable Technology (SMART) Lab. The SMART Lab researches and develops new technologies to make American infrastructure “intelligent,” safer, and more cost-effective. These new systems self-monitor the condition of roads and bridges quickly and accurately and can, sometimes, even repair themselves.

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Smart cities: The future of urban infrastructure

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Songdo in South Korea has been designed with sensors to monitor everything from temperature to energy use to traffic flow. By Timothy Carter

Technology is changing everyday city life, allowing us to instantly adapt to everything from storm threats to traffic jams.

Infrastructure is not exactly the sexiest word in architecture. There are no “starchitects” proudly boasting about their pipe designs or subsurface drainage systems. By its very definition – the underlying structures that support our systems – infrastructure is inherently hidden from us, and therefore often overlooked. But without it our current cities couldn’t possibly exist. Without finding ways to improve it, our future cities will struggle to survive.

Historically, our urban infrastructure has materialised as a response to some emergent or acute problem, like natural disasters. In 2010 it was estimated that over 40% of the global population lives in coastal areas, and much of the large-scale devastation in these areas is due to hurricanes and typhoons. Multi-billion-dollar estimates of infrastructure damage from Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, as well as the recent devastation in the Philippines, demonstrate the amount of damage and human cost these disasters create.

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Switching to electric vehicles will ruin our roads without a gas tax replacement

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What good are electric vehicles if our bridges and roads are still falling apart?

 Los Angeles, 2042. The sun rises on another day, the crystalline blue sky a reminder of how much smog levels have dropped since California banned the sale of gas-burning vehicles in the late 2030s.

Electric car adoption is still spreading across the country in fits and starts, but here in the cradle of zero-emissions rules, tax incentives and investments in a public fast-charging network have seen most drivers switch over. It’s been a long, tortuous process, but the future you were promised is finally here.

Anyway, time for work. You get dressed, slurp down some nutrient slurry and walk out to your Honda-E (in this vision, Honda eventually came to its senses and eventually released its cute EV in America). Easing out of your driveway, you make for the I-10 freeway—the same eight-lane disaster zone it’s always been—dodging giant potholes, random piles of gravel from abandoned roadworks projects and more than a few broken curb chunks. Ochre trails from rusting street signs and guardrails color the concrete everywhere.

Traffic still sucks; it’s been decades since Los Angeles attempted to repave its main arteries, let alone build a new one.

So, this is not exactly the future you were promised. Yet it’s a glimpse at a looming, oft-overlooked and critically important problem with the impending shift to EVs. Currently, a large majority of infrastructure projects (including mass transit) and maintenance in this country are funded by a single source: the gas tax, paid by consumers at the pump. An electric car makes no harmful emissions as it tootles along a road, but its driver also contributes nothing to that road’s upkeep while wearing it down all the same.

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Digital twins could form the “end game” for optimum smart city design

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Digital twinning technology can transform how cities are designed, monitored and managed

Research finds that urban digital twinning and city modelling technology is having a transformative effect on how cities are designed, monitored, and managed.

Urban modelling and digital twins, in particular, will form the “end game” of the smart cities journey to optimised design and the ultra-efficient operation of entire cities, according to ABI Research.

Its research findings reveal that the installed base of urban digital twin and city modelling deployments will rise from a handful to more than 500 by 2025.

The global tech market advisory firm said the technology is helping to transform how cities are designed, monitored, and managed and optimising the holistic performance of cities across verticals in terms of energy management, mobility, resilience, sustainability, and economic growth.

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A new look at autonomous-vehicle infrastructure

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What infrastructure improvements will promote the growth of autonomous vehicles while simultaneously encouraging shared ridership?

Imagine a future in which fleets of autonomous buses and shuttles effortlessly navigate through city streets to their designated stops. Ridesharing services dispatch shared autonomous vehicles (AVs) to pick up multiple passengers traveling along similar routes. Robo-taxis drop off passengers at subway stops for the next legs of their trips. Some traditional car owners decide that they no longer need personal vehicles because shared-mobility AVs fulfill their needs. Road congestion drops because there are fewer vehicles.

Now imagine an alternative future in which everyone who once owned a traditional car instead has an AV. Many people without licenses also purchase AVs for their personal use, even though they haven’t had a car for years or never owned one. Passenger-miles traveled increase by 25 percent.1 AVs circle while waiting for their owners to finish shopping or running errands if no parking spaces are available, or else they run a variety of errands, ranging from delivering groceries to picking up dry cleaning, themselves. City streets become even more gridlocked.

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What’s the piece-of-the-pie for driverless cars in the $2 trillion infrastructure plan?

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Potholes and roadway decay, it’s messy and dangerous, among other infrastructure crumblings.

There are emerging discussions that perhaps Congress and the White House might agree to a rather significant spend on America’s infrastructure. Some say it could be on the order of $2 trillion potentially allocated. Whether or not you favor such an expenditure, most would likely agree that our infrastructure does seem to be progressively crumbling, as evidenced by everything from dams that break without apparent warning to a plethora of tire-bashing potholes permeating our roadways from coast-to-coast.

According to the most recent Report Card on our infrastructure by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), we all need to be seemingly ashamed of what we’ve allowed our country to become since the United States infrastructure earned a paltry and embarrassing D+ grade.

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China’s rolling out dedicated highway lanes for self-driving cars

 

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In a bid to lead the race to fully-autonomous vehicles, China is building highways with dedicated lanes for self-driving cars.

A new 62-mile stretch of freeway will have two lanes dedicated to autonomous vehicles (AVs), according to FutureCar. The idea is that the infrastructure investment will give AVs access to real-world traffic conditions — but also that the separate lanes will ensure that the still-limited AV tech is tested in a way that minimizes risk for human drivers.

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The future of cities

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Cities may occupy just 2 per cent of the earth’s land surface, but they are home to more than half of the world’s population and generate 80 per cent of all economic output. And their dominance is growing: by 2045, an extra 2 billion people will live in urban areas.

At Pictet, we think it will put pressure on infrastructure, resources and the environment.

Encouragingly, those responsible for planning and building the urban centres of the future are up to the challenge. Worldwide, authorities are working ever more closely with the private sector in an effort to make our cities safer, more sustainable and better connected.

That’s good news for the planet.

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Company wants to make plastic roads that can be made in a factory

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The Anthropocene epoch, as some scientists believe we’re living in, is defined by how drastically humans have altered the Earth with mining, roadways, and other earthworks.  Engineers are now testing plastic roads that can be installed and removed incredibly quickly.   Continue reading… “Company wants to make plastic roads that can be made in a factory”

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Cities using innovation and imagination in their infrastructure

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Louisville’s Big Four Bridge, built in 1895 and later known as “The Bridge to Nowhere,” reopened to pedestrian and bicycle traffic after a $30 million-plus renovation.

Ron Littlefield: Recently, I visited two cohort communities of the City Accelerator, a program sponsored in part by Governing, sister publication to Government Technology: Louisville and Nashville. I expect to be in the third city, Philadelphia, before the end of the year. The purpose of these visits is to meet face to face with the mayors and their principal innovation staff, to experience how their innovation efforts fit within the context of the community and to see how the City Accelerator project is affecting the overall climate for innovation. In simple terms, I want to sense the air of change and creativity in each place.

 

 

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