By Sarah Dawood
A concept for a new pedestrian crossing that aims to improve road safety for drivers and pedestrians has been revealed.
The Smart Crossing prototype, which will be unveiled at London’s Somerset House in March, has come out of a project commissioned by insurance company Direct Line in a bid to reduce the number of road accidents that happen at crossings. The company estimates that 7,000 happen every year.
The project involved a competition where different design studios, based in Somerset House’s design and start-up hub Makerversity, developed concept crossings. Four ideas were then shortlisted.
LED lights to alert drivers and walkers
The winning concept, Line of Sight, has been designed by studio Mettle, and involves using LED lights on either side of a crossing to alert drivers that a pedestrian is approaching the road. The LEDs light up when a person approaches them, using object detection technology.
The LED lights are also intended to be used by pedestrians so they know when it is safe to cross, and to “guide them” across the road, says Direct Line.
The three concepts that did not make the cut include Social Movement, which involves fitting the ground with sensors that would vibrate to let pedestrians know when it is safe to cross; Laser Vision, which would project a laser on the ground in front of pedestrians who were distracted and looking down at their phones; and Look Up, which would light up a kerb to make pedestrians more aware of the road and their surroundings.
The four concepts were developed in collaboration with “road safety experts” and the general public, says Direct Line. This includes a judging panel of Makerversity, Direct Line, road safety charity Brake, the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), parenting advice site Mumsnet and MP for Huddersfield Barry Sheerman, who is the chair of the Parliamentary Advisory Council of Transport Safety (PACTS).
Based on prototype launched in 2017
The shortlisted concepts were based on an early prototype developed by design consultancy Umbrellium in 2017, which was installed in South London. It included several features such as LED lights to make crossings appear and disappear when needed, increase the size of crossings to adjust to pedestrian footfall, and produce a lit-up “buffer zone” around pedestrians who wandered into the road to alert drivers.
A spokesperson at Direct Line says: “Umbrellium did an incredible job creating the Smart Crossing prototype, however we wanted to expand the idea to other designers, inventors and creators from different backgrounds to see what else we were able to achieve.
“More efficient and cost-effective” than previous version
“As this project is an open-sourced idea it is important to see a wide range of different designs for the Smart Crossing. Line of Sight is the next step, being a more energy efficient and cost-effective solution [than previous iterations].”
This is the second road safety prototype project that Direct Line has completed, following Fleetlights – a fleet of drones used to provide light for drivers and pedestrians travelling in areas that are dim and poorly-lit.
There are currently no plans to roll out the Smart Crossing prototype but Direct Line is speaking with local authorities across England to assess where it could be installed in the future.
“Line of Sight is currently in the early design and prototype stage – the feasibility and costs of rolling the idea will need be investigated further,” says the spokesperson.
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