In-road LEDs providing lightbulb moments for distracted smartphone users

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The lights comprise strips of LEDs integrated into the surface of the road just off the curb(Credit: Stadtwerke Augsburg)

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For those who are forever glued to their smartphones, navigating a city can be hazardous. Dodging street lights and other pedestrians without looking up is tricky, and crossing roads is downright dangerous. Some would leave this to Darwin, but Augsburg in Germany is trialling in-road pedestrian lights.

The lights comprise strips of LEDs integrated into the surface of the road just off the curb. They are designed to be clearly visible even from a distance and have been installed at crossings close to two tram stops in Augsburg.

When a tram is approaching, the light strips flash red, so that pedestrians paying more attention to their smartphones than to the road are alerted. When there are no trams approaching, the LEDs simply stay off. The light strips are powered wirelessly from the existing pedestrian light poles and also receive signals from the poles about when to flash. The pedestrian light poles themselves are triggered by approaching trams.

The trial is being run by Stadtwerke Augsburg, which provides the city with its energy, water and traffic services. Stadtwerke Augsburg tells Gizmag that it does not believe that there is any greater degree of safety issues caused by smartphone-use by pedestrians in Augsburg compared to anywhere else, but that the proliferation of smartphones has resulted in more of such issues on a global scale. The trial is aimed at determining whether or not LED strips integrated into roads in this way could improve pedestrian safety.

There is no set end date for the trial, which began on April 20th. Stadtwerke Augsburg plans to monitor the installations until it feels that there is evidence for or against their continued use. If they prove to be beneficial, the LED strips will be rolled out to other locations around Augsburg.

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