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

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.”

Courtesy of Road Safety GB