A high-tech interactive street crossing that can warn drivers if a pedestrian crosses the road while staring at their smartphone has been tested in south London.
Dubbed the "Starling Crossing" by designers from UK technology company Umbrellium, it aims to update the traditional British zebra crossing with the help of a neural network and tracking cameras, which can calculate the trajectory of anyone walking across its surface.
The chosen section of road at the crossing area is monitored by cameras and embedded with computer-controlled LEDs that can be seen from all angles.
While it uses road markings and colours familiar to most citizens, the Starling Crossing is also able to "react" in real-time to various situations and movements.
As least in theory, the technology is able to modify the patterns, layout, configuration, size and orientation of pedestrian crossings to help bolster safety.
A prototype, installed temporarily in south London, is designed to support the weight of vehicles, remain slip-free in pouring rain and display bright markings.
If a distracted person looking down at their smartphone veers too close to the road surface when a car is nearby, a warning pattern lights around them to fill their field of vision. The light would create a warning to other drivers and cyclists on the path.
And if a child runs into the road unexpectedly, a "large buffer zone" can instantly be created around them to make their trajectory obvious to others nearby.
Umbrellium founder Usman Haque told the Press Association (PA): "The pedestrian crossings that we use every day are about 50 or 60 years old.
"It was designed for a different idea of a city.
"We're trying to update it for the 21st century with a crossing that deals with the fact that people are on mobile phones and they might not be looking up, vehicles might be coming more often, there might be pedestrians suddenly coming out at the end of a film.
"This is trying to perform very much like a traditional crossing with the difference that it responds in real time."
According to the UK's Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), there's an average of 20 potentially dangerous incidents at crossings every day. As previously reported, some 350 child pedestrians were killed or seriously injured by vehicles in the third quarter of 2016.
The smart city tech firm – which has partnered with insurance firm Direct Line – did acknowledge that it remains unknown how much it would cost to implement its scheme.
Jason Wakeford, head of campaigns at UK road safety charity Brake, said: "This innovative pilot is a great example of how technology can help to improve road safety.
"We look forward to seeing the results of this trial and hope smart crossings will be rolled out in towns and cities across the country." At the time of writing, there are no plans to do so.