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[Image above] Credit: HD_Vision; Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Integrated Roadways (Kansas City, Mo.) is a company with big plans for an uber-connected world—the company is pioneering its namesake to build a world literally and figuratively connected by a mobile Internet of Things.

Integrated Roadways’ plans will hopefully soon become reality, too, because the company has patented its smart pavement system—a system of tech-embedded precast concrete slabs the provide wireless connectivity on the road.

The company’s modular concrete slab system uses dowel bars to join together individual precast concrete slabs, helping to transfer loads and providing a continuous paved road.

In addition to providing the opportunity for technology to be installed within the concrete itself, precast slabs are also quicker to install, reducing construction delays, and have a longer service life.

And then there’s all the possibilities that integrated technology provides. But nothing’s worse than a tech-embedded system that becomes obsolete after a period of use.

So the company also invented a way to service the pavement, through slab-embedded access ports that allow the smart concrete to be connected, disconnected, upgraded, and serviced.

With the approval of its U.S. patent, Integrated Roadways is well on its way to making these smart roads a reality and has already installed its smart concrete systems in portions of Missouri’s highways.

“To actually have a patent number and issuance date after all this work is still very exciting, even if we knew it was coming,” Integrated Roadways founder Tim Sylvester says in a Startland News article. “It’s rewarding to finally be at the point where we have a patent number and issue date. We first filed in 2014 so it’s been a long time coming at this point.”

So what can smart highways actually do?

In addition to the simple fact that you could connect to the internet when you’re on the go—without burning through your wireless data plan—sensor-equipped roads could make rides safer and quicker.

According to the Startland News article, Integrated Roadways is already working with the Colorado Department of Transportation to install pavement that is so smart that it can call for help when it detects that a car has run off the road.

There’s also the possibility of ice-melting heated highways.

And, according to a Racing News Co article, the roads could also achieve wireless charging for electric vehicles, increasing their range and thus potentially broadening their appeal to a wider audience of drivers.

Plus, connected pavement could directly communicate with autonomous vehicles, making driverless car technology more feasible and more safe.

Although the possibilities for smart highways are diverse, it’s clear that the ability for added technology will change our world in interesting ways.

“We need to change ever-so-slightly how we think about roads,” Sylvester says in the Startland News article. “Change it from ‘a hard flat thing that just kind of sits there’ into ‘a hard flat thing that just kind of sits there, but has cool stuff inside it that makes it possible to do new things, too.’”

Catch a glimpse of the installation of some of the smart concrete slabs in Integrated Roadways’ time-lapse video below.

Credit: Integrated Roadways; YouTube