Road infrastructure plays an important role in our lives, connecting us to the places and people around us that matter most. As such, it is crucial for road infrastructure and construction to keep up with emerging trends and innovations as technology and requirements evolve.
More than 300,000 km of roads crisscross towns and cities throughout the country. Updating all of them will take time, but developments are already underway. For example, the Smart Pavements Australia Research Collaboration (SPARC), a recently established university-led research platform backed and regulated by the Australian Research Council (ARC), is paving the way for intelligent construction (IC) by integrating advanced sensing and automation into road designs. With this technology, they can analyse the long-term performance of geomaterials and make actionable recommendations for more adaptable infrastructure.
Digital engineering (DE)—a holistic, data-driven approach to structural design—is also gaining popularity in the road construction industry. More construction companies are adopting advanced software for construction management, such as PlanRadar, to optimise their processes and obtain better results. This is part of Industry 4.0, which aims to enfranchise digital solutions in construction, manufacturing, retail, and other industries.
This article covers the emerging revolution in road construction and what role digital technology plays. A glimpse of the future of roadwork and transportation helps governments and businesses transition smoothly into a smarter and more digitally connected world.
Driving forces of innovation in road construction
The world is changing and adapting is the only way to stay ahead. The road construction industry is no exception. It must undergo technology-enabled transformations to meet the rising demand for sustainable, efficient, and safe roads. Here’s what drives those transformations.
- Climate change – Australia’s already harsh climate is getting worse, and we expect intense rainfalls and bushfires in the coming years. Over the years, we’ve already lost many roads to floods and mudslides. The extreme heat of fires also melts asphalt and weakens the concrete layers underneath.
- Automotive innovations – The invention of autonomous vehicles is also predicted to immensely affect future road designs. It’s still nascent, so it has a long way to go before we see full adoption. Until then, our roads will serve as a laboratory for car manufacturers, requiring a slight adjustment at each technological milestone.
- New modes of transportation – Since the recent gas price surge, we’ve seen a growth in sales of energy-saving transports, such as scooters, bicycles, and e-cars. The latest land development plans already incorporate exclusive roads or lanes for these new vehicles.
- Worsening traffic conditions – Many cities built and established in the early 1900s have kept their major roads intact. But the problem is, those who designed these roads and developed the cities didn’t factor in the influx of vehicles. With more cars than these roads can accommodate, city traffic problems are only expected to increase. Transportation regulations can only do so much to help. More roads are needed – and some cities even need to overhaul their existing road systems to ease traffic conditions.
- Globalisation – Years ago, Amazon and eBay were only accessible in some countries. Now, along with other eCommerce giants, they operate globally, boosting the shipping, trucking, and courier industries. This means many ports and roads will be built.
A sneak peek into the future of road construction
Leveraging technology in road infrastructure has a guaranteed return on investment. We’ve seen it in various other industries, including vertical construction, real estate, and facility management. The use of digital tools, such as 3D BM modelling software, has become increasingly popular in recent years for road construction. This technology allows surveyors, engineers and other professionals to create exact copies of the area they are surveying in order to measure depth, angles and other details more accurately. The use of this software also helps reduce construction costs while improving safety.
In addition to digital tools, the use of green infrastructure is also becoming increasingly popular for road construction. This includes the use of recycled and recyclable materials, as well as plants and vegetation to help prevent run-off from entering local waterways. By reducing emissions and promoting sustainability, green infrastructure helps create a more environmentally friendly construction process.
Additionally, it is always important for road construction professionals to keep up with traffic trends in order to plan and build roads that are safe and efficient. This includes monitoring traffic patterns, speeds, bike lanes and other factors to ensure roads are built for the future.
Let’s check out some current and predicted developments in road construction and how you can position your business for success in the modern world.
1. Reduced overall traffic risks due to smart automation
Depending on where the road will be built—topography, environment, ground condition, etc.—road work construction faces different risks, from sideswipes to collisions with oncoming traffic. For example, tall bridges, tunnels, and cliff roads are hazardous to build and have a long history of catastrophic accidents. Some heavy equipment and tractors are also risky when used by inexperienced workers, which explains why they require a separate license.
To reduce the risks in road construction, some companies use a self-propelled road-building machine. This machine can form a flat road foundation, lay out the pavement, disperse gravel, etc., all by itself, requiring little human intervention. In addition, automated mobile vehicles (AMVs), such as drones and rovers, are also deployed to handle tasks beyond human capabilities, including aerial inspections and testing the properties of untouched soil. Soon, we’ll also see autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), drones, and articulated robots join the fleet.
2. Data-driven construction management
Construction companies now use cloud-based construction management software to streamline processes, break communication barriers, and upgrade their document management. Software like PlanRadar even supports BIM model integration for easier monitoring and collaboration among key players in the project. This technology is particularly handy for road-building projects where teams work on separate locations, and the job site is distant from the headquarters.
With project management software for the construction of roads and bridges, you can easily communicate with anyone in the organisation, from the safety officer and site engineers to the project manager and any subcontractor. This allows for quick risk response, comprehensive progress reporting and analysis, and easy project management. It also promotes transparency and accountability.
3. Smart infrastructure
We call any structure “smart” if it performs functions other than its supposed function. In the future, we’ll see more roads that serve not just as a safe and efficient surface for transportation. There will be roads that harvest energy through friction or detects cargo-weight-related dangers. For instance, if a truck’s load exceeds the capacity of a bridge ahead, the road detects it and sends an alert to the driver. Even traffic signs and streetlights will likely evolve into wireless or solar-powered devices.
This technology is already available at present. Also known as the Internet of Things (IoT), and it’s been transforming various industries, including smart construction, agriculture, retail, and manufacturing. By integrating them into the current transportation system, we can expect reduced road accidents and air pollution.
Preparing for a tech-driven future
The future we see isn’t set in stone, but one thing is for sure—the days of old-school construction management are numbered. Soon, the entire construction industry will fully transition into a digital construction management system, which should be a top priority. Why? Because most construction innovations are programmed to be integrated into the construction management platform where the data they produce is sorted and analysed.
Overall, emerging trends in road infrastructure and construction have made it easier for professionals to create roads that are safer and more sustainable. By utilizing digital tools, green infrastructure and knowledge of traffic patterns, it is possible to create roads that are built for the future.
Road infrastructure projects are best carried out using a data-driven approach. And data is best stored and processed in a secure and flexible cloud-based infrastruction construction management software like PlanRadar. Find out how PlanRadar can help prepare your construction company for the far-reaching developments in road building. Get started with a free 30-PlanRadar trial or contact us today.