Michigan is building the nation’s first smart highway

Three miles of I-94 will have special sensors and communication equipment to track cars and help drivers with special alerts.


A three-mile stretch of Interstate 94 in Michigan will be converted into America’s first smart highway.

Axios reports that the Alphabet-backed startup Cavnue has started constructing the smart highway as part of a new pilot project that could spur other construction projects across the country. Another project, a "Smart Freight Corridor" on State Highway 130 by Austin, Texas, is also being developed.

The new smart road is big, long tracking system for Michigan’s Department of Transportation (MDOT) and for drivers on the highway. The smart highway is designed to inform both MDOT and drivers about potential issues ahead, such as obstacles in the road, accidents or traffic jams. It's hoped that the project will help relieve traffic congestion, prevent accidents and help authorities provide efficient responses to roadway emergencies.

The pilot program of the highway is located between Ann Arbor and Detroit, Michigan. There are future plans to extend the smart highway to 40 miles in six more phases that would connect to both cities once the pilot program is complete.

The smart highway works with a series of poles placed every 200 meters (about 655 feet) along the road that hold sensor pods, compute pods and communication equipment. There are also cameras along the highway that monitor every stretch of roadway and take images that are analyzed by AI and machine learning algorithms to identify hazardous driving conditions. Alerts are sent to MDOT and drivers connected to the roadway.

Cavnue says its technology can connect with "any vehicle that has connectivity features." A spokesperson said "Most modern cars with built-in navigation features fit into this category — a vintage old-timer would not."

America has some catching up to do when it comes to building and implementing smart highways. Great Britain, for instance, started working on its first internet-connected road in 2014.

Update, July 2, 7:20PM: This article was updated with additional information from a Cavnue spokesperson, and also to clarify that one additional project, rather than two, is currently under way in Texas.