A prototype "smart crossing" has been demonstrated in London, which automatically differentiates between vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists – adapting its markings and signals to their needs in real-time, ensuring a safer experience for all users.
The world’s first responsive road crossing is being showcased in London this week, aimed at tackling the 7,000+ incidents recorded each year at UK crossings between vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. Urban design technologists Umbrellium created the crossing for insurer Direct Line, in response to research by Transport Research Lab (TRL), which unearthed the dangers faced at pedestrian crossings.
Many factors were identified by TRL that affect the safety of pedestrians on road crossings. The pedestrian’s position and route as they cross the road, the influence of other pedestrians dangerously crossing the road and the impact of overcrowding at crossing facilities, are all potentially hazardous occurrences that shaped the design of this new technology.
The Smart Crossing, which spans 22m (72 ft) of responsive road surface, uses computer vision technology to “see” exactly what’s happening around it, and an LED road surface to change its markings dynamically to keep users safe, without manual input. It can pre-empt pedestrians’ movement and where their eyeline is most likely to be, helping to ensure it grabs attention to limit danger.
The project has received backing from road safety charity, Brake and The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) – who stated that the Smart Crossing “could offer an innovative solution across the UK and especially in London where the problem is most prevalent.”
The Smart Crossing has a number of other features:
• It can widen to accommodate large groups, which could help in preventing crowd-related incidents outside schools or sporting events
• It can instantly adapt in emergency situations, such as a child chasing a ball into the path of oncoming traffic
• It can provide warning signals for pedestrians walking across the road, to ensure they're not hidden by high-sided vehicles that can cause a blind spot for other road users
• It can use dynamic road and pavement patterns to grab the attention of "smombies" (i.e. pedestrians engrossed in their mobile phones), urging them to "look up" and focus on crossing the road safely and to make life safer for the 'head down' generation
Usman Haque, founding partner of Umbrellium, said: "This is a genuine problem and we've developed a genuine solution. The Smarter Crossing dynamically responds in real-time, using technology which has been designed with colours that we know and understand and practical designs that help those on the crossing feel comfortable, confident and safe.
This is about bringing pedestrian crossings up to speed with the rest of a modern-day city. Pedestrian crossings as we know them were made for a different age, when the human relationship with the city was completely different.
Our prototype is waterproof, can hold the weight of vehicles and can recognise the difference between pedestrians, vehicles and cyclists – it's ready to change the future of how we cross the road."
Rachael Lynch, Brand Activation Marketing Manager at Direct Line, said: "Direct Line develops high performance solutions to everyday challenges and our Smart Crossing is the latest example of this. We've developed a world first piece of technology to address the problems that arise when pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles meet; at a pedestrian crossing.
"Cities across the world are future proofing and we believe our model could be an essential part of everyday life. In a world where we are immersed in mobile technology, the Smart Crossing can pre-empt danger and urge pedestrians to look up before crossing a road."