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Street crossing of the future

The smart crossing has so far received positive feedback from road safety organisations in the UK

The smart crossing has a responsive surface which uses computer vision to see what's happening
The smart crossing has a responsive surface which uses computer vision to see what's happening

A high-tech “smart” road crossing which automatically differentiates between vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, adapting its markings and signals to their needs in real-time, has been unveiled.


The prototype solution, created by urban design technologist, Umbrellium, for insurer Direct Line, is intended to help make pedestrian crossings safer and tackle the 7,000 incidents recorded at crossings annually in the UK.


Many factors have been identified by Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) that impact 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 have informed the new technology.


The smart crossing, which spans 22 metres 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 reportedly pre-empt pedestrians’ movement and where their eyeline is most likely to be, which helps to ensure it grabs road users’ attention to limit risk of danger.


“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,” said Rachael Lynch, innovation marketing manager at Direct Line.


“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.”


The smart crossing, which spans 7.5x22 metres, will:

  • Use computer vision technology to “see” exactly what’s happening around it, and an LED road surface to change its markings in real-time to keep users safe
  • Widen to accommodate large groups, which could help in reducing the number of crowd-related incidents outside schools or sporting events
  • 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 which can cause a blind spot for other road users
  • Use dynamic road and pavement patterns to grab the attention of “smombies” (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”.

“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,” added Usman Haque, founding partner of Umbrellium.


“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.”


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