Mind Blowing Road Technologies You Never Considered
Let's explore the amazing road technology and gadgets that are used to maintain our roads!Technology
You may not often think it, but roads are some of the most complex pieces of infrastructure that mankind can produce. And the methods of producing them are equal parts ingenious and surprisingly mesmerizing to see. From building roads across deserts to drones carrying out pothole repairs, let’s explore some mind-blowing road technologies you probably never considered.
Tiger Stone Brick Road Laying Machine
Have you ever found satisfaction in the perfect tessellation of brick road paving? If so, I have the perfect machine for you. It may look like a giant printer, but this is the Tiger Stone Road Paver.
It’s a slow-moving, electric-powered paver that crawls along the road, laying a perfectly assembled trail of bricks behind it. Workers on the machine’s galley take the bricks from the holding hoppers on top and place them onto the moving shear plate, arranging them into the desired pattern.
This plate then feeds the interlocking bands of bricks downwards at a speed the workers can easily keep up with. Gravity helps to secure the pattern in place before it’s gently laid onto the road surface as the machine rolls forward. In contrast to traditional practices, which rely on workers placing each brick onto the road by hand, this method saves time, effort, and back pain for all involved!
At almost 20 ft wide, this stony printer has the capacity to lay just under 3,300 square feet of paving per day when manned by just two people. But it can also be adjusted to print-pave smaller roads, in case you’re strapped for available land.
Golden Gate Bridge Road Zipper
A rush hour might just be the ultimate bane of a motorist’s existence. In built-up city areas like San Francisco, records show commuters can lose up to 5 days a year trapped in congestion!
But as you probably imagined, there’s a machine designed to help with that. This is the Golden Gate Bridge Barrier Transfer Machine, also nicknamed "The Road Zipper", and you can see why. It’s designed to change the position of the concrete or steel lane dividers separating the two directions of traffic.
Before rush hour, the road zipper will shift the barriers to give drivers an extra lane to help ease congestion in the busier direction. The vehicle uses an S-shaped inverted conveyor channel in its undercarriage, which is basically a high-powered roller system that lifts the barrier segments up and transfers them to a new position.
It’s an impressive task, considering there are 3,200 blocks making up the full moveable barrier over the 1.7-mile-long bridge, with each segment weighing 1,500 lbs! Now that’s what you call a heavy-duty zipper.
Electreon Wireless Electric Roads
At this point, about 14 countries and over 20 cities around the world have proposed future bans on vehicles powered by fossil fuels. France, Norway, The UK, and even China are all preparing to get from A to B without their foot on the gas. But how will that be made possible?
One option has been offered by the company Electreon, which specializes in Wireless Electric Roads! Already used in projects in Tel Aviv and Sweden, this Israeli company has a road design capable of wirelessly powering electric vehicles while they’re driving! The execution of this technology is achieved by integrating a narrow copper coil into existing asphalt roads, linked to the electric grid, and synced to installable vehicle hardware.
According to Electreon, the process of installing one mile of this coil from start to finish can be achieved in just a few days. A receiver under the electric vehicle chassis, linked to Electreon's dynamic wireless power transfer system, allows the vehicle to harness power wirelessly while it travels.
In theory, this eliminates the need for bulky batteries, and providing the car only drives on these types of roads, it can be powered indefinitely. If combined with a rechargeable battery for traveling off the grid, this could well be a viable solution to powering electric vehicles in the future! Now this is the future Scalextric kids are prepared for!
Nextrencher Trencher Disc
From wiring to drainage, a lot of stuff needs to be excavated and buried when upgrading a road, and for that, you need a machine that can really punch through the asphalt. The Nextrencher Trencher DiscD-80 is a high-powered tool that can cut through and remove urban materials like concrete and asphalt to a depth of almost 3 ft.
Usually, excavation disks used in trenching projects like this are exposed. But when you’re trying to keep fast traffic moving, the last thing you need is for stones and bits of debris to go flying into oncoming vehicles. Instead, the Nextrencher design encloses the entire top of the disk, meaning there’s no disruption to traffic and laborers can work safely alongside it.
Debris is fed up through a conveyor belt or chain to an extractor which then deposits the fragments on the side of the road. Its efficient design means the disk trencher can cut around 330ft an hour depending on the surface at hand. And maybe a little longer if someone falls underneath.
Self-Repairing Cities Initiative
The world seems to be obsessed with drones these days, and it can get a little exhausting. But there are actually some incredible potential uses for drones that you’d probably never expect, like repairing potholes!
Researchers from the University of Leeds have put forward their solution of using drones with 3D printing capabilities to fill in potholes. Although it’s still in its concept phase, this could prove to be the answer to on-demand pothole filing.
The researchers have explained that, in theory, the drones would be able to scan potholes on a closed road to get the orientation of the indent. With that information, they can then use an attached extruder machine to pour materials like asphalt or tar into the hole in a specific pattern to give it a smooth finish.
ETI Roller Barrier
Traffic barriers and jersey barriers may help you feel safe on the road, but anyone who’s been in a collision with one will tell you they’re no fun to hit. But there is a safer way forward. Take a look at the ETI Roller System, developed in South Korea.
This design does way more than just prevent vehicles from driving off the road. These rollers are able to convert a good deal of the impact energy into rotational energy. This prevents the vehicle from breaking through the barrier and instead redirects the vehicle back onto the road!
The rollers themselves are made from a material called Ethylene Vinyl-Acetate, or EVA for short. EVA’s rubber-like structure and lightweight form means that the rollers aren’t easily damaged, even when they’re hit by heavy vehicles like trucks and buses.
Everything about the design helps to propel the vehicle forward, which is what traditional crash barriers do, only not this efficiently. So, if you ever find yourself head-on with one of these, just roll with it.
Building a road from scratch can require much more than just slapping down a tonne of asphalt. Depending on the terrain, you may need to take soil erosion into account and employ methods to prevent your hard-built road from crumbling apart. That’s why some construction companies use Geocells.
These are made from geosynthetic materials designed to be durable enough to reinforce the soil bed to withstand up to 5,080 lbs of pressure per foot! The cellular design and base component can be changed depending on the application, meaning no matter what kind of soil the project is planned on, geocells can help maintain structural integrity!
In this instance, a series of stretched perforated cells are being used to prevent base-level erosion on a highway shoulder. But they can also be used in extreme circumstances like stabilizing sand-based foundations across stretches of desert. It’s pretty impressive, and just goes to show that everyone benefits from a little support once in a while, even roads!
Python 5000 Pothole Patcher
Potholes are the enemy of all road users and are capable of turning a completely normal road into an infuriating obstacle course. They’re so reviled that back in 2011, the UK’s Automobile Association joked about literally highlighting how sick they were of their nation’s plentiful potholes.
To combat this scourge of the roads, the inventors at Superior Roads Solutions have created the Python 5000 Pothole Patcher. Unlike traditional methods of pothole patching which require a lot of manual labor, the Pothole Patcher is able to fill and patch any hole with the operator comfortably sitting in the machine’s cabin.
The 5-tonne hopper located behind the cabin uses an exhaust circulation system to keep hot asphalt hot or warm up cold asphalt to a working temperature of around 300F. It’s then fed through into a 4ft extendable working arm at the front of the cabin and then sprayed out of the arm’s nozzle. The asphalt is then leveled out by an attached rake, before being compacted into the hole by the arm’s roller for a smooth finish.
What’s more, Superior Roads claims The Python 5000 is three times faster than a three-person crew doing to same job! Suddenly it seems like we might win the war on potholes, but we may have to bow down to our robotic pothole-fixing overlords in the process.
Power Curber 7700
Have you ever noticed the long, unbroken lines of concrete barriers that sometimes skirt stretches of the highway? Being as long and continuous as they are, you may have wondered how they got there in the first place.
They’re actually made on-site by a method called slip forming, where cement concrete is poured and molded by a continuously moving machine. When you combine that method with some additional mechanical ingenuity, you get the Power Curber 7700.
It features a telescopic frame which allows the machine to straddle the triangular shape of two metal grids. Once in position, cement concrete is fed by a conveyor belt into the forming house, where it is mechanically applied to the triangular metal frame.
As the machine slowly moves along, cement concrete passes down onto the frame and is smoothed, creating a seamless highway barrier wall! With the conveyor, tracks, and straddle device, this machine can weigh in at a colossal 80,000 lbs.
When it comes to the kings of slip-forming machines, a company called Gomaco sits at the top. Their colossal units provide different types of paving depending on the project but can also be customized to fit the most impossible-looking endeavors. What you see here is a Gomaco GP3 Slip Form Paver, designed to pave floor coverings up to 30 ft wide.
It works by placing a measured supply of concrete in front of the paver, which is then spread, shaped, and consolidated at a specific height. But Gomaco doesn’t just produce "one size fits all" slip-forming machines; just take a look at the customized GP-2600, used in the creation of Turkey’s Batman Canal system.
This four-track slip-former was designed with a sectional, trapezoidal mold that could be adjusted for different slopes and depths. A work bridge behind the paver was also installed, so workers could apply a trowel finish by hand to the molded cement concrete.
Despite the complexity, overall production topped out at an impressive rate of 1,969ft per day, which is just under half the main span length of the Golden Gate Bridge! Now that’s how you pave the way to success.
Relaying an asphalt road is a fairly common construction task, but what kind of machines can you employ to re-surface asphalt on your driveway? Get ready for the Leeboy 8500. This machine is part of a specialized series of conveyor asphalt pavers that are some of the most efficient on the market.
Asphalt pavers work by transferring asphalt from the hopper to a heated auger via a conveyor belt. The auger will then place a measured amount of the heated asphalt in front of the "screed", which is a fancy name for a tool used to smooth materials.
What makes the 8500 so practical is that it has a 15-ft-wide screed footprint, the perfect size to drag asphalt over surfaces like driveways for a clean finish. And with a 7.5-tonne hopper, it’s able to lay a lot of asphalt in one go. Perfect for when the perfectly reasonable urge to build a road seizes you on a Saturday afternoon.
I hope you were amazed at these mind-blowing road-building technologies you never considered. Thanks for reading!