A team of designers has installed a full-scale prototype of an interactive crossing that responds in real-time to dangerous situations like distracted pedestrians or children running into the road.
Umbrellium said its Starling (STigmergic Adaptive Responsive LearnING) Crossing puts people first by updating the design of pedestrian crossings to account for streets with ‘more cars, pedestrians and technology, and a different societal relationship to urban transport infrastructure’.
The crossing uses familiar road markings and colours, but reacts dynamically to different conditions and can modify the patterns, layout, configuration, size and orientation of pedestrian crossings in order to prioritise pedestrian safety.
If a person is distracted, for example looking down at their phone, and veers too close to the road surface when a car is nearby, a warning pattern lights around them to fill their field of vision.
If a child runs into the road unexpectedly, a large buffer zone is created around the child to make its trajectory clear to any nearby drivers or cyclists.
The full-scale prototype installed temporarily in South London draws on research by TRL and is designed to support the weight of vehicles and remain slip-free in pouring rain.
The entire road surface at the crossing area is monitored by cameras and embedded with computer-controlled LEDs that can be seen from all angles, both day and night.
Using an artifical ‘neural network framework’ – an artificial intelligence paradigm inspired by biological nervous systems – the cameras track objects moving across the road surface, distinguishing between pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles, calculating their locations, trajectories and speed and anticipating where they may move to next.
The road can also change its configuration at different times of day and in different situations. For example, early in the morning when there are few pedestrians, the crossing may only appear when someone approaches, guiding them to the crossing location that it has learned over time is the safest, but otherwise leaving the road clear for traffic.