Princeton’s Dr. Alain Kornhauser has often emphasized the importance of good signage and road paint to help improve autonomous vehicle guidance. As he points out, good markings are helpful for human drivers as well. It is right then that one of the exhibitors at Kornhauser’s 2018 SmartDrivingCar Summit demonstrated an additive that can integrate paint into the infrastructure of a smart city.

To listen to the above interview, click on the player below.

Josh Collins, Intelligent Material’s CTO, explains that their additive allows embedding of multiple levels of information into a standard thermoplastic paint, beyond just what is visible to the human eye.  This sort of invisible QR code provides complementary information to GPS and mapping programs.

Activated by various wavelengths of light from a transmitter, say on an autonomous vehicle, the Intelligent Material infused-paint reflects back its information to a detector that relays this information to the brains of the autonomous vehicle. The value of this idea extends beyond autonomous vehicles and directly to humans.

Collins explains how their work with The Ohio School of the Blind led to the development of a cane attachment, which includes a transmitter and detector to alert the pedestrian, via vibration or audible means, about various sidewalk/road metadata, such as condition, location, etc. Their approach enables virtual truncated domes (the bumps that are the demarcation between sidewalks and streets) and offers potential cost savings and benefit to all people, compared to physical truncated domes (this article points out that truncated domes may be more harmful than beneficial).

It is not too far-fetched to envision shoes with built-in transmitter/detectors that would allow for hands-free way-finding and guidance for both the sighted and non-sighted, as Lechal offers way-finding/fitness tracking with their insole inserts.

As part of the Smart City testing in Columbus and Tampa, Intelligent Materials’ additive has had a real-world deployment. The additional cost of the additive is minimal, as it comprises less than 1% of a given paint. Collins anticipates a licensing-type model and that end products should hit the market within a year.