Ghost Road

New Scientist reports that “lane markings on roads could one day be changed at the click of a mouse.”
If electronics firm Philips has its way, roadway markings will no longer use paint; instead, “ultrathin plastic strips would be attached to road surfaces,” utilizing “a hard-wearing version of the electronic ink used in emerging flexible displays for e-books” – transforming roads into a kind of literary hieroglyph, or infrastructural e-book.
Paving the way for Da Vinci Code 2: Road to Calvary, in which a strange message is found encoded in the pavement outside Mel Gibson’s Malibu home…
More prosaically, this just means that “lane marking or speed limits [could] be changed at will.” But whose will…? And does that mean that you could program the M25 to be like I-95 for a day, and vice versa? Exploring cultural exchange via roadway markings?
Of course, if these programmable markings do become an everyday reality, it will inevitably mean that every fifteen year-old on the planet will waste hours and hours trying to hack the local roadways, engineering gruesome pile-ups. J.G. Ballard will be arrested, remote control in hand, staring glassy-eyed through a window at the final crashes he has staged.
And, who knows, maybe somebody will figure out how to make these magic roadways show films. The face of Cary Grant, shining upward from a freeway in Montana.
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7 thoughts on “Ghost Road”

  1. Hey Geoff,
    Great blog. I’m a tv researcher for HGTV. We’re looking for houses for a new series that not only look unusual but have ‘extreme’ construction challenges. Any suggestions? They have to be in the USA.
    My email is

  2. Okay, kudos for a good start on what promises to be a revolution in transport technology. Why? Because, with real-time pixellated displays embedded in travel surfaces, there’ll never be a need to go anywhere!

    Imagine something like Google earth playing underfoot. Your own glass-bottom boat. Sit in one place and let the world come to you.

    That said, there’s always been one thing that puzzled me about the Holodeck: in a sunny scene, do the players get a tan?

  3. Wow. I live in Los Angeles, and this could be an amazing development. Roadways could be reconfigured to react to accidents or debris, rerouting lanes to allow emergency vehicles safe access and egress. High volume commutes could be reconfigured morning and afternoon to allow for appropriate usage of lane space. Neat!

  4. “they” should get rid of cars and subsidize horses. i also enjoy motos. l.a. sucks. when is this ethanol going to be marketed?

  5. what a great way for hackers to kill people!!! I think there is already to much technology. Now a road that reports roadkills,that would be great! or better yet,one that prevents them altogether!!

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