Could cars someday power traffic signals?

Emerging technology suggests it could happen — and perhaps sooner than you think. Late last month Roanoke, Va., began testing a roadway “rumble strip” that generates energy when vehicles drive over it.

According to an announcement from New Energy Technologies on Friday, Nov. 4, Roanoke utilized the company’s patent-pending MotionPower-Express System at a demonstration late last month at the Roanoke City Center. According to the vendor, as vehicles approached the rumble strip and slowed down, the vehicles depressed “small rumble strip-like treadles” that captured kinetic energy. The kinetic energy was converted into electricity that powered lights displayed to drivers.

According to New Energy, if used over the course of a full day the energy producing rumble strips could power a large electronic billboard for a full day. The rumble strips could be installed at exit ramps, toll booths, traffic intersections and other high-traffic areas, according to the company.

Mark Jamison, Roanoke’s transportation manager, said in the press release that the rumble strip technology can offset the city’s cost of operating traffic control devices while also providing sustainable energy.

“We are proud to be the first city in the nation to test this novel technology with the potential to make the way we produce energy more clean and green," said Ken Cronin, director of general services and sustainability for Roanoke.

Several similar technologies are coming to market that will convert movement — such as walking, driving or ocean waves — into sustainable power. Last month it was announced that a company will install tiles at next year’s Olympic Games in London that will capture power from human footsteps.