This Smart Crosswalk Only Appears When Needed

London-based design firm Umbrellium’s plans for a smart and interactive crosswalk platform are a refreshing approach to modern pedestrian safety issues in urban environments.
Mario L. Major
The photo credit line may appear like thisUmbrellium

A London-based design firm has created plans for a revolutionary crosswalk that will respond to the movements and vibrations of pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. Named the Starling Crossing (STigmergic Adaptive Responsive LearnING Crossing), it will completely transform the nature of interaction between vehicles and people.

This Smart Crosswalk Only Appears When Needed
Source: Umbrellium
This Smart Crosswalk Only Appears When Needed
Source: Umbrellium

So, what can the crosswalk do? Well, beyond the impressive movable road surface, there is an exciting array of safety features:

• Bright computer-controlled LEDs are inside of plastic panels that interact with cameras and also issue flashing warning signals for pedestrians who enter the space using smartphones.

• An interactive road surface which disappears at night, yet conveniently reappears when activated

• A crosswalk that modifies its size and shape based on the time of day and relative amount of pedestrians (rush hour vs. non-rush hour)

• Adjustments to weather conditions for drivers (rainy vs. dry)

• Cameras that anticipate all foot and vehicle patterns and make quick adjustments

• A strong metal framework that supports the weight of all passing vehicles—it is also slip-resistant.

• Flashing warnings for approaching cyclists

• A special buffer zone that appears around children who wander into traffic, with a message sent to nearby drivers.

This Smart Crosswalk Only Appears When Needed
Source: Umbrellium
This Smart Crosswalk Only Appears When Needed
Source: Umbrellium
This Smart Crosswalk Only Appears When Needed
Source: Umbrellium

Umbrellium founding partner Usman Haque explains the thinking behind the unique design: “We wanted to create a pedestrian crossing technology that puts people first, responding to their needs,” explaing further, “The interactive road surface can generate a pedestrian crossing at any location, or create colored road markings to serve as guidance or warning to people who might be about to get into a dangerous situation.”

Haque does acknowledge that the company still has a ways to go in terms of logistical considerations and properly integrating the design:

This Smart Crosswalk Only Appears When Needed
Source: Umbrellium

“There is a lot more safety testing needed and a future iteration would need to explore further interaction through texture, height, and edges as well audible signals,” adding cautiously, “There is also more work to be done conducting material and durability tests.”

Despite the overwhelming benefits for both pedestrians and drivers that are associated with the Starling Crossing, as with all new technology that is planned for public dissemination, funding will be the main feasibility issue.


Oliver Carsten, professor of transport safety at UK-based Leeds University, stresses that cost will be the main obstacle, even if certain logistical challenges are addressed:

“The main issue is the sheer cost of equipping the roadway with the necessary LED lights,” adding plainly, “What pedestrians really need is infrastructure and vehicles that allow them to cross where they want to.”

Starling Crossing - overview from Umbrellium on Vimeo.

This solution seems a more modern and realistic handling of the issue of pedestrian safety, one that takes into account some urban municipalities have even taken the extreme measures of adopting laws that make it a punishable fine for pedestrians to use mobile devices while traveling in designated crosswalk zones. What is needed is a solution which considers both the unique realities of the digital age as well as the important safety mandates that are a part of the responsibility of local government.


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