A little bit of the future is coming to Los Angeles freeways later this year in the form of "smart" road studs that gauge road conditions and traffic flow and open and close a freeway lane accordingly.
Caltrans has contracted with a New Zealand company to pilot the "dynamic-lane" system on the 110 Freeway where traffic backs up in a tunnel at the single-lane connector to northbound Interstate 5. At peak hours, the "smart studs" would illuminate to automatically open a second connector lane on the 110, easing the long lines.
Despite a couple of delays -- the $3.2-million project had been set to roll out this month -- a Caltrans engineer said it's on target to launch in November and, if successful, could be installed at other L.A. County junctions.
Tim Crabtree, chief executive of SmartStud, said the devices convert magnetic energy to electrical energy, known as inductive power transfer, which allows them to function independently from a fixed-cable system. Energy is delivered by a central cable that emits a magnetic field, but the studs do not need to be fixed by electrical wire to harness the electricity. A logical extension of the technology, Crabtree said, is a roadway-based system that can charge a vehicle's battery as it moves along, or a system of road lights that responds dynamically to a vehicle's speed.