3.9 Million and the IOE

November 20, 2013 - 7 Comments

If I told you there’s something all around us that, if connected, could significantly help reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, reduce pollution on a massive scale, reduce the amount of time we spend in our cars, make entire cities smarter and contribute to an overall improvement of peoples’ physical and mental health all at the same time, would you ask why we’re not already doing everything we can to harness its potential?

There are approximately 3.9 million miles of road in the US today, and while there are large stretches of road that don’t suffer from constant traffic, connecting high-traffic, urban roads to the IoE could accomplish all of the above. While we’re connecting roads, we can coat the surface with photosensitive material in the tar/asphalt mixture that would use sunlight to produce energy to power streetlights and much more!


With connected roads, traffic lights can dynamically shift their sequences to allow for an optimal flow of traffic, while cars can truly drive autonomously making commutes more like riding a train and roads safer for pedestrians, cyclists and passengers alike.

The really crazy thing about this idea is most of the pieces to this puzzle exist – they just need someone to assemble them. Cars are connected, paintable, photosensitive materials exist in beta form, internet connections are almost everywhere and there’s even government funding allocated to green energy projects that could help subsidize the cost of an endeavor like this. The best part about this kind of project is it has the capacity to put jobs, both manufacturing and labor/construction back into local municipalities that would obviously greatly benefit both local and national economies.

While the cost to build a city with smart streets would initially be high, over time the benefits would absolutely outweigh the costs, and we’d be investing in our future and solving a handful of big problems all at the same time.

Why do you think these dots haven’t been connected yet? Is it silly excuses, a lack of the required elements, conflict of interest or simple oversight? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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  1. Thank you for your reply, Shaun, and I have a hunch that might be one of the hurdles. The reality is, while oil and gas co’s might not be directly blocking efforts to connect roads, they’re probably not helping to make it happen either…

  2. I agree with everything here and think there are huge opportunities to make efficiency in our every day life. However I think possibly why this hasn’t been taken up quicker is due to Oil and Gas companies. They want us to drive more, they want us to use oil/gas more. However, with that in mind the demand will eventually hit critical mass and at that point Oil/Gas companies will need to reinvent otherwise they may go the way of the dinosaurs. Wouldn’t that be ironic?

  3. I’m not sure conflict of interest is the right term. I think many in office are afraid of breaking the status quo and take a genuine risk. This risk could revolutionize transportation, yet we would still have cars,trucks and busses. They would still burn stinky dead animals so those industries would remain in place. Public transportation would still require a person at the controls to guide the vehicle in case of a system failure all as we have today. So no I dont think its conflict of interest I think its short sightedness, a deep love of the status quo and fear of being the person to put their name on the bill. Hopefully someone in power will see te potential and do the smart thing.

  4. While I would love to see all of this done I agree that traffic lights would be the most “sellable” first step with the quickest rewards. I dont think we’ll see the rest until cars that are capable of driving themselves become readily available. Of course connecting the roads, traffic lights, etc to the IoE would bring autonomous cars to market faster so short sightedness will only delay improvements such as this. Great article! Thanks for sharing it.

    • Thank you for your comment, William, and again, I totally agree! It really amazes me how many problems we could solved by updating roads in urban areas.

      Do you think any conflicts-of-interest are playing a part in delaying this type of project?

  5. Traffic lights for sure. If we took a small portion of our energy subsidies and put them into upgrading traffic systems I bet it would save 2% in fuel and increase productivity. How many times do you sit at a light idling for 3 minutes with no cross traffic. Even an electric car or hybrid expends energy running the heater or air conditioning at a stoplight.

    With all our network traffic shaping experience it should be relatively simple to extend those same rules out to traffic queues.

    • Totally agreed, John! It’s amazing how much opportunity we’re forgoing by neglecting some strategic investments…