An electrical and computer engineer from Raytown wants to rebuild Interstate 70 with so-called “smart pavement” technology to allow for vehicles with no drivers.
President of Integrated Roadways Tim Sylvester, will present his plan to Department of Transportation officials and the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission next week.
“We plan to present a public/private partnership to rebuild I-70 using smart pavement,” said Sylvester. “Smart pavement provides intelligent transit services as a subscription service in order to support driver-less vehicles and wireless electric vehicle charging.”
Sylvester said smart pavement also has the capability to provide WI-FI to the general public traveling the interstate. He said there would be no difference in the visual appearance of the road.
“Smart pavement is a pre-cast pavement system that has a variety of sensors in the pavement and communication services to provide location and navigation information to support driver-less vehicles,” said Sylvester.
Sylvester said profits from the subscription-based service would be shared with MoDOT, but drivers are not required to have it in order to drive on the interstate.
“After ten years of implementation of this service, the profits shared with the Department of Transportation would essentially double their budget,” said Sylvester. “If you don’t subscribe, you’re just using it like a road.”
Sylvester thinks the service would appeal to commercial fleet operators and suggests the commercial trip fee would be two and a half cents per ton, per mile.
“This is primarily geared towards commercial fleet owners who can save about 15 percent on their shipping costs by using this service and double their shipping capacity, but it would also be available to private drivers,” said Sylvester.
Sylvester said smart pavement is more cost-effective than vehicles that can drive themselves made by Google or Mercedes.
“Those cars are hundreds of thousands of dollars and they’re not going to be cheaper for decades,” said Sylvester. “We can make driver-less a lot cheaper and a lot more accessible by providing it as a subscription using sensors installed in the roadways.”
Sylvester said users would need to install a system into the vehicle similar to a Garmin after-market navigation unit or a GM OnStar kit. Sylvester estimates the target price to install a driver-less system would be near $1000 to $1500 for passenger vehicles and a little more for commercial vehicles.
“The technology that we’re talking about to upgrade your vehicle is so much simpler than if you’re trying to upgrade your vehicle to be driver-less completely on its own without any sort of outside support,” said Sylvester.
Sylvester is planning to ask MoDOT for their recommendation to go forward with a pilot project to test the technology. Sylvester said it would be a one mile stretch of road with smart pavement, but it would not be on I-70.
“It would take place somewhere that we’d be able to interrupt traffic and nobody would get upset with us,” said Sylvester.
Sylvester said the biggest obstacle against his smart pavement project will be dealing with political and legislative issues.
“We’ve got to get legislation for driver-less cars and we’ve got to get legislation for public/private partnerships,” said Sylvester. “The best thing that the average person can do in order to support this is to call their legislator and voice their support and advocate for improving I-70 in a way that prepares us for the future and for all of the exciting technology to come.”
Sylvester said MoDOT estimates it would cost between $2- and $4 billion to rebuild I-70. Sylvester estimates his smart pavement would cost $3.6 billion, but said MoDOT would only be responsible for 10 percent of the project under his public/private partnership plan.