Road Safety News

New smart crossing a ‘world-first piece of technology’

Thursday 12th October 2017

Image: Direct Line

A new ‘smart’ road crossing, which can automatically differentiate between vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, has been unveiled. (The Telegraph)

The prototype crossing, designed to help reduce the 7,000 collisions recorded at crossings annually in the UK, has the ability to adapt its markings and signals, in real-time, to cater to the needs of each road user type.

The crossing has been created by urban design company, Umbrellium, for Direct Line who describe it as a ‘world-first piece of technology to address the problems that arise when pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles meet at a pedestrian crossing’.

According to research by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), many factors impact the safety of pedestrians at road crossings. These include 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.

The new smart crossing spans 22 metres of responsive road surface, which is made to withstand the weight of vehicles.

The surface is also designed so that users won't slip in heavy rain and has been embedded with computer-controlled LEDs that are visible from all angles in daylight, or after dark. The LEDs light up to form road markings.

The crossing uses computer vision technology to ‘see’ exactly what’s happening around it, and is monitored by cameras that feed images to a neural network that's able to differentiate between pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. It works out the location, trajectory and speed of each tracked road user and anticipates their next move.

The smart crossing will also: 

  • Widen to accommodate large groups
  • Adapt to protect pedestrians in emergency situations - such as a child chasing a ball into the path of oncoming traffic
  • Provide warning signals for pedestrians walking across the road, to ensure they’re not ‘hidden’ by high-sided vehicles
  • Use dynamic road and pavement patterns to grab the attention of ‘smombies’ - pedestrians engrossed in their mobile phones 

Rachael Lynch from Direct Line said: “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.”

Usman Haque, founding partner of Umbrellium, said: “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.”

Related stories

Elderly people struggling to cross the road in time
5 October 2017

Category: Engineering.



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Does anyone know if/how it conforms to current regs (TRSGD etc)?
David Davies, London

Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

We need use new technology to improve on existing crossing design not turn the roads into 70's disco dance floors. The Belisha beacon orange goldfish bowl could be removed and replaced with a system that doesn't just indicate where the crossing is but also warns that there is someone walking on the crossing or waiting to cross. Drivers view of the crossing can be easily obscured by the other vehicles, stationary vehicles in the opposite lane for example. Warning approaching traffic that there is a hazard and to prepare stop would reduce the likelihood of accidents.
Derek Hertfordshire

Agree (6) | Disagree (0)

Is the absence of Belisha Beacons in the image simply an oversight, or are the beacons deemed to be no longer necessary once all the other high-tec is operational? The ability of a driver to see a crossing in the distance, at a very shallow viewing angle, without any of Leslie Hore-Belisha's inventions is severely compromised.
David, Suffolk

Agree (12) | Disagree (0)

What will happen when snow and slush cover the "vision technology"? If they have designed in a heating element to melt snow then that might work but that will add to the running costs of a prohibitively expensive bit of kit which is likely to be well beyond the shrinking budget.
Peter City of Westminster

Agree (11) | Disagree (0)

So what happens with the colour and configuration when you have a child run out, someone wanders towards the deg of the crossing and another crosses diagonally across the road?
Do all the variations come on at once or is priority given to protecting certain individuals on the crossing.

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

I'm pleased to see that the image depicts a perfectly natural and typical everyday urban road with a nice mix of road users using the road's features responsibly and doesn't look in the slightest bit artificial or unrealistic.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (19) | Disagree (1)

‘smombies’. Brilliant. Never heard of them before. Great description. The article is worth it just to introduce the term to me.
Guzzi, Newport

Agree (10) | Disagree (1)

Interesting prototype development but obviously not working to regular highways budgets nor ever likely to. Not sure how the tech “road surface” would ever cope with potholes, diesel/oil spillages, winter salt and regular scuffs and scrapes that happen when things such as broken exhausts, tow chains, snow ploughs etc drag along the road.
Pat, Wales

Agree (17) | Disagree (0)