MARIN COUNTY (KPIX 5) — Commuters driving along Highway 101 in Marin might notice some new striping along the roadway thanks to a new piece of Caltrans equipment.
Bay Area is on the cutting edge of self-driving vehicle technology. But now KPIX has learned a new lane-striping machine owned and operated by Caltrans is going to be a key component in the success of the autonomous vehicle world.
Instead of paint, the new lane-striping equipment sprays a special boiling hot thermo-plastic material. Caltrans spokesperson Vince Jacala claims it will be easier to see for both humans and remote sensors.
“The new stripes are brighter and they are wider and they also help kinda guide those autonomous vehicles which can pick them up more clearly,” said Jacala.
The old stripes were four-inches wide, while the new thermo-plastic stripes are six-inches wide. The plastic is applied through a special heated nozzle. Then quickly — before it cools — the machine applies a layer of microscopic glass beads on top so it will reflect light as brightly as possible.
Caltrans is re-striping major freeways first, but will expand to other roads in the future. But the raised traffic dots marking lanes that are familiar to locals will be phased out. Drivers KPIX 5 spoke with had mixed feelings about losing the dots with the advent of wider traffic stripes.
“I think bigger stripes will actually help people,” said one driver.
“No, I think it’s better for them to be there,” disagreed another.
“I feel like it’ll help but, it’ll also bring it’s own problems, so…” said a third.
Caltrans says they will only be re-striping roads at night to avoid busy traffic hours.