LED lights, camera, take action! Smart zebra crossing warns drivers about “smartphone zombies”

Remember the days when a singing, cartoon hedgehog would advise pedestrians to ‘stop, look and listen’ before crossing a road? 

LED lights, camera, take action! Smart zebra crossing warns drivers about “smartphone zombies”

Well the ubiquity of so-called “smartphone zombies” suggests that people are no longer heeding this advice, so it’s time for technology to step in. 

Tech firm Umbrellium, with insurance firm Direct Line, has developed a smart zebra crossing that alerts drivers to oblivious, smartphone-using pedestrians through a series of flashing lights. 

The prototype, unveiled in Mitcham, South London, works by using the lights to alert the driver of a pedestrian who may have walked out onto the road unexpectedly. If movement is detected by the two cameras, a thick red line will light up across the road, giving the motorist prior warning of a potentially unaware pedestrian.


Performing like a traditional crossing, the dynamically-changing detector responds in real-time to pedestrians. The two cameras are able to record hundreds of different variables, monitor the 22-metre crossing and, if they detect a pedestrian, are able to feed the information to the computer system in less than a hundredth of a second. 

 There are more than 660 LED lights which can be programmed to change colour and create patterns to display different warnings. 

And alerting drivers is not all the smart crossing can do. If lots of people are waiting to use the crossing, it has the ability to widen in length, giving the pedestrians a broader path to walk across. Even cyclists will be alerted to smartphone zombies, receiving more alerts when they’re hidden by high-sided vehicles. 

The design of zebra crossings have stayed static for many years and this prototype comes at an important time for road safety with the most recent data suggesting an average of 20 potentially dangerous incidents occur at crossings each day in the UK.

“We’re trying to update the design with a crossing that deals with the fact that people are on mobile phones and might not be looking up,” Usman Haque from Umbrellium said. 

Images: Direct Line

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