New invention combats irresponsible phone users on the roads

Pedestrian crossings are a constant source of difficulty.

The UK has unveiled a new pedestrian crossing that could help warn drivers when pedestrians unexpectedly step out on to a road, or if the pedestrian is on their phone while moving. 

These days, it’s almost more unusual to see someone walking around without a phone in their hand, chatting away to someone, listening to blaring music, or tapping away on the keyboard. 

Countless times, I’ve watched people step off the footpath before realising that the incessant beeping from the traffic light is actually for someone on a parallel road or at the next crossing. They pause, look around wildly as car horns honk or other pedestrians yell out a warning, and step sheepishly back onto the footpath before returning their attention once more to the device in their hand. And then the process starts all over again. 

The new “smart crossing” uses cameras to monitor an area, and LED lights to illuminate part of the road in red a pedestrian steps out unexpectedly. The same cameras can also detect the amount of people waiting at a particular crossing and widen their path on the road if necessary, to allow a smoother flow of foot traffic. 

A prototype of the smart crossing, designed Direct Line (an insurance company) and Umbrellium (a tech firm) was unveiled in the south London area. 

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“We’re trying to update [current pedestrian crossings] for the 21st Century with a crossing that deals with the fact that people are on mobile phones and they might be looking up, vehicles might be coming more often, there might be pedestrians suddenly coming out at the end of a film needing to cross,” Usman Haque, Umbrellium founding partner, said in a Mirror article. 

“This is trying to perform very much like a traditional crossing with the difference that it responds in real time.” 

As yet, there’s no definitive answer on how much it will cost to roll out smart crossings around London or the UK, and it will likely be years before such a change makes its way across the world. However, it’s not the first time that such a concept has been suggested. The “Solar Freakin’ Roadways” crowdfunding campaign received plenty of attention when it emerged in 2014, and reached more than 200 per cent of its funding goal. 

Do you think we need smart crossings? Or do we need stricter laws about mobile phone use?