Imagine driving along the highway, on your way to work, and getting caught in a traffic jam because you didn’t know there was an accident just a mile ahead of you. Problems like this could be fixed by implementing drone programs that watch traffic, alerting drivers of accidents ahead, or alerting you of driving too fast.
Carlo Ratti, a professor at MIT, and his firm, CRA, are collaborating with the creators of Italy’s roadway system to develop a Flying Poles concept. Italy has been working very hard on creating a 1,500 mile highway program that implements a lot of technology, so that the system can share traffic and environmental information with drivers to help keep them safe and informed during their commutes. They hope to use Flying Poles, a reincarnation of a stoplight, to house drones to help with this project.
The Flying Poles concept works because the drone and pole will both have sensors that can detect weather changes as well as traffic flow. They will also communicate with each other and drivers’ cars using WiFi, so they can always stay connected. By adding sensors to drones as well, the project become more mobile, making the project that much more helpful and up-to-date. Professor Ratti hopes that drones can even deliver first-aid supplies to victims of car crashes, or other tragic events nearby, or even help stranded drivers by delivering important tools to help fix their vehicles.
If a highway were to use these Flying Poles, then a highway can become a network of information without any interference and minimal input, and can provide help when it’s needed by drivers and passengers.
It feels like it’s only a matter of time before the entire world embraces Flying Poles, because drones really are becoming everyday machines. Despite this, however, drones are not necessarily the only solution to fixing highway troubles—for example, 5G wireless data networks are being installed globally, and self-driving cars with sensors and live cameras are also a reality. Scientists and stakeholders have to consider if adding more technology to an already crowded network is the best way to improve safety, or if it’s best to work with what we’ve got and what’s already been in the works for years.