Studio Roosegaarde promised the design back in 2012, and after cutting through rather a lot of government red tape we can finally see the finished product.
One Netherlands news report said, “It looks like you are driving through a fairytale,” which pretty much sums up this extraordinary project. The studio aims to bring technology and design to the real world, with practical and beautiful results.
Back in October 2012, Daan Roosegaarde, the studio’s founder and lead designer, told us: “One day I was sitting in my car in the Netherlands, and I was amazed by these roads we spend millions on but no one seems to care what they look like and how they behave. I started imagining this Route 66 of the future where technology jumps out of the computer screen and becomes part of us.”
Part of that vision included weather markings—snowdrops, for instance, would appear when the temperature reached a certain level. For now though, the stretch of the N329 highway in Oss features only the glow-in-the-dark road markings, created using a photo-luminescent powder integrated into the road paint, developed in conjunction with road construction company Heijmans.
Roosegaarde told Wired.co.uk that Heijmans had managed to take its luminescence to the extreme—”it’s almost radioactive”, said Roosegaarde. You can get some sense of that in this embedded tweet, which appears to show three stripes of varying shades of radioactive green along both the highway’s edges.
According to a report in Dutch News, Heijmans wants to expand the project but has not yet secured any further contracts. There’s no news yet on how the paint holds up against wear and tear—the glow lasts up to eight hours once powered throughout the day, but a patchy inconsistent strip would not pave the way as effectively as energy-guzzling street lights.
But it’s of course in the interest of road operators and local government to employ these types of trials, considering the cost savings. However, when Roosegaarde spoke with Wired.co.uk a few months ago about his proposed smog-attracting electrostatic fields, to be deployed in Beijing (yes, he’s helped create a smog vacuum), he explained that bureaucracy has been a big problem. In October, Roosegaarde said the project had been ready for months, but it was being held up because of a license application and approvals from local government.
“There needs to be a call to ministers all over the world—this is a problem, and we should not accept it,” said Roosegaarde. “We should create labs in the city where we can experiment and explore these kinds of solutions. Like a free zone. We want to do it safely, but just give us a park [for the smog project] and we’ll prove it to you. Be more open.”