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Assuming humanity continues to build road-like structures for transport of people, freight, etc., are there likely materials candidates to replace the asphalt roads of today over the next several hundred years? I'd elaborate, but that really about covers it I think.

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    $\begingroup$ Please provide some criteria to avoid this question generating an endless list of possible materials. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Mar 13 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ Terminator films come to mind, a quick search reveals an unfeasible number of books with the title "Road of Bones". I still want my flying car they promised - no road. $\endgroup$ – A Rogue Ant. Mar 13 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ The roads of today are not made of asphalt. Asphalt is a very very soft material... You wouldn't be able to drive a light carriage over a road made of asphalt, let alone a motor car. Our roads have a complex layered structure, with most of the strength provided by a layer of crushed stone or concrete; the asphalt is a relatively thin layer on top, used as a protection and wear layer because it is soft. (And we sometimes do use other materials for the topmost layer. Asphalt is common because cheap.) (You may notice that road maintenance involves replacing the asphalt cover periodically.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 13 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ Future roads will(are) built out of... Internet. WHY go anywhere, when you can summon any place to yourself. The only things that will actually travel are goods and raw materials. $\endgroup$ – PcMan Mar 13 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ "I'd elaborate, but..." - You really should try or they won't open the question again. $\endgroup$ – SurpriseDog Apr 6 at 15:57
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Grown coral

Advances in bioengineering and nanotechnology have created a way to "grow" structures in a controlled manner. To create a road, one simply uses a "starter" which is essentially just a lump of active, bioengineered, coral and you plant it where you want the road to grow. Then, you pour some nutrients on the ground and mark out the edges of your surface (either with physical markers or digital ones). Once the starter is planted and contacts the nutrients, it grows rapidly and converts dirt, stones, and anything else in its way like old asphalt into new, spongy shapeable coral material which hardens into a solid form within a couple days, becoming incredibly tough, hard, and lasting while maintaining coral's porosity (for draining water) and the self-healing capabilities.

This coral can also be used to build structures. For example, a simple house could be built by building a frame (or unfolding a prepackaged one) that's made of tubes and connectors and then using the coral to grow in walls, floors, and ceilings by simply growing along the frame. To provide nutrients and mass, you'd simply need to set up a sprinkler which mists the area or has a direct hose connection feeding into the organism.

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Local stone.

Roads are a waste of valuable space for ecology or human living. So they need to become part of the underground economy, together with factories and farms and commerce.

The key to moving the economy underground is the disintegration ray. Which is to say, an ultrasound emitter with sensitive microphones that generates a linear shear pattern that cracks deep through the local stone formation in a straight line, regardless of the natural geological layers. This requires much computation and a fair amount of broadcast power, but uses vastly less energy than grinding through all the rock. The pattern terminates by cracking off in a perpendicular direction at the end of the blocks. The result is that you have a vertical emitter plate that you press against against a section of stone at the end of a new road. It cracks all of the stone behind it into smooth, consistently shaped blocks. The machinery then immediately grabs hold of all the blocks and pulls them in with a smooth motion to be loaded on a transport, even as the ultrasound emitter plate is folded and unfolded to move past them to be seated on the next smooth surface it just created. In this way, road building is very rapid and generates copious building materials for the system of dikes and tall foundations that is badly needed at the seacoasts.

The road surface created this way is made of the local stone wherever that is suitable for use. It needs to have a roughened pattern if traffic makes physical contact, but this gradually will give way to very smooth polished stone surfaces (rock shop quality) as traffic takes to moving on superconducting rails.

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Iron. And concrete.

iron track and concrete ties

I would like to propose plastic or glass. Very much more likely is the resurgence of tracks. Iron was already used to make long "roads". Earth provides near unlimited iron. Iron makes robust tracks and the longetivity of these tracks will be even better using concrete instead of wood for ties. Tracks use a minimum of space and can be useful in other ways - conducting power and information and augmenting the abilities of the vehicles which traverse them.

Which of course in a realistic near future will be robot-driven cars. Luddites could retrofit their Buicks to ride the tracks.

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