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The car has come a long way since Carl Benz built the first gas-powered car in 1886. It started with a small buggy model, and over the years, the car has continued to become faster, more efficient, and designed with safety as a top priority. Although automobiles have had extensive upgrades, our roads have remained virtually unchanged since Eisenhower created the federal highway system in the 1950s. As cars advance, we must think about innovating the infrastructure that supports them.
Since transportation and energy are inextricably connected, The Ray is taking steps to promote and capitalize on clean energy opportunities. We’ve already embraced solar generation on both the road and in the right-of-way. The Southeast’s first right-of-way solar project was launched in early 2020, collecting clean energy from approximately 2,600 high-efficiency solar panels at a diamond interchange at Exit 14 on The Ray. The open space of the exit ramp provides ample land for solar panels. The road’s surface can also be used to generate electricity, which we demonstrate with the Wattway solar road in the parking lot of the Visitor Information Center at the Georgia/Alabama line on I-85. These projects are possible in the sunny region of LaGrange, Georgia, but other energy sources can also be tapped in our area to build a clean transportation system.
Building upon the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Homes program, Scott Mills uses his expertise as a building retrofitter to bring sustainable infrastructure to residential buildings. The DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Homes program partners with builders, architects, and innovative partners who must register and complete concrete and rigorous guidelines to be considered and listed as one of these homes, both in its production and usage. There are six in Georgia, all focused on clean energy and sustainable living, including one in Serenbe (where we will be on Ray Day!). Mills takes these guidelines and expands them to the bigger picture of an individual’s footprint. Into the home, he brings PV solar, batteries, and EV charging in order to cut pollution and generate revenue for the homeowner. Such a focus on the individual’s impact and remediation through residential living reminds us of Ray Anderson’s goal to “brighten the corner where you are”.
As we move toward better and safer infrastructure, propelled by projects and partnerships like our very own V2X, engineers and artists conceptualize and create unique upgrades for all parts of the smart highway. One part of the highway in need of an upgrade is lighting, and some cool and creative solutions are being developed to meet this need. From a safety standpoint, poor roadway lighting and improper maintenance lead to dangerous driving conditions and a higher rate of crashes. Not only are roads unsafe, but energy is wasted on unused roads and inefficient technology. Smart lighting may be one of the most straightforward ways to progress towards smart highways.
The evolution of the automobile has led to bigger and better designs since its invention in 1885 that not have made driving more efficient and safer. Today, electric vehicles (EVs) are roving the streets more than ever before — more than one million are now on U.S. roads. Self-driving cars are changing the game even further. With the growth in electric vehicle usage, what’s the next step for infrastructure?
Mowing lawns is a beautification practice for neatening the land we come in contact with daily. However, consistent mowing of the grass actually removes nutrients from the soil and lessens the health of the root system (here is an interesting article on the creation of lawns and their effects on nature). Robotic mowers aim to return grass clippings back to the soil while mowing at the preferred height for the type of grass, allowing the nutrients to return and the root system to grow. The zero waste and zero gas production in addition to its safety precautions make a robotic mower a potential solution to an unkempt yard rather than a standard lawn mower.
Looking for a smarter, more efficient way to operate parking lots? CloudParc provides a solution that utilizes machine learning, computer vision, and cloud connections to revolutionize the parking monitoring process. For years the technology surrounding parking lots, parking safety, and parking efficiency has seen little to no development. CloudParc is changing this by developing a high tech solution that can monitor a parking lot or streetscape, provide real-time updates on available parking spaces, measure the duration of parking in each space, and track collisions or accidents. CloudParc offers a service to reserve parking spaces, locate areas with availability, and even pay for parking through a comprehensive app. As Internet of Things (IoT) technology like this advances, it could allow operators to monitor fleet performance or analyze the emissions of vehicles while in use. Further opportunities exist to prioritize low-emission, clean vehicles that speed up the transition to a smarter, safer, and healthier roadway.
Planes, trains, and automobiles are not the only ways to get around, and humans are not the only creatures moving from here to there. Working alongside existing roadways, these animal bridges aim to help wildlife safely navigate our interstate systems during their natural migrations. Animals on the roadway pose a significant hazard to the wellbeing of their species as well as the safety of drivers. Further, animal collisions are an economic burden, estimated to cost nearly $8 billion in annual repairs, safety measures, etc. These wildlife crossings are popping up around the world as an innovative solution to these problems. Beautiful, innovative, and effective, these installations lessen the impact of our roadways on the natural world.
Looking towards the next generation of tire technology, Revvo (formerly IntelliTire) is working to increase the safety of tires. The Revvo software platform leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning models to better predict tire tread life and explain why tires wear from changing road conditions. With proprietary sensors embedded directly inside of the tire, the Revvo tire management tool captures tire diagnostic data where the rubber meets the road. The custom design protects the sensors from harsh environments and optimizes the performance of highway fleets in real-time. By helping the driver and fleet managers better understand the overall health of the tires on their vehicles, this sensor-enabled AI software platform leads to increased vehicle uptimes, optimized efficiency, and improved safety on the roadway.
While electric vehicles on the road are growing in popularity, the technology is not limited to ground travel. Clean, quiet, cost-effective electric air travel is on the horizon. By retrofitting vintage aircraft into modernized, electric planes and developing electric and hybrid commercial airliners, Ampaire Inc. is bringing sustainable transportation to the skies.
A somewhat "unseen" source of emissions is the day to day operations of standard street-cleaners. Accounting for nearly 26 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted annually, a single street-cleaner is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. But it doesn't have to be this way! Bucher Municipal has reimagined its newest street-cleaner model to run completely emissions-free. With 8 hours of battery life and 2 cubic meters of capacity, the CityCat 2020ev is a quiet, efficient, and more cost-effective way to keep our streets clean and healthy. A single CityCat 2020ev operating for one hour a day for a single year accounts for over 6,000 kg of atmospheric carbon dioxide. If broadly adopted and regularly utilized, a fleet of these vehicles would significantly decrease the emissions associated with the traditional street sweeping process.
Although still in its infancy, carbon recapture could become a viable solution for roadside emissions. Small-scale, efficient carbon capture installments along the roadway could scrub the air as it becomes polluted by passing vehicles. The transportation sector is a huge emitter of greenhouse gasses, and mobile carbon capture could help decrease emissions as we slowly transition into electric and emission-less vehicles. Direct Air Capture (DAC) devices could be placed along highways and congested city streets to catch the emissions of passing vehicles. Companies could be incentivized to install DAC devices directly onto their large fleets. Prototypes of this project are still in development, but advancements could overcome the devices' current challenges — a resource-intense capture process and commercial viability.
Median wind turbines make the most of the continuous airflow generated from everyday traffic. As cars move across the highway, they create a wind flow that is unutilized on the typical roadway. Installing turbines in the median, between moving cars, harnesses this wind to provide clean, efficient energy.
BuzzBox IoT offers a unique opportunity to support the health and wellbeing of native pollinator populations. To provide automatic diagnostics for beehive health, the BuzzBox team utilizes a solar-powered, app-run, remote monitoring system to follow beehive activity, swarm warnings, and overall hive health. This data can help both hive owners and the general public play a crucial role in preserving pollinator species.
Stormwater runoff contributes to nutrient pollution and increases soil erosion. Innovative ideas can provide solutions for the waste that accumulates in a storm surge. Collecting debris as it washes off the street, this sieve-like netting prevents waste from being transported through the water systems into urban reserves.