Story highlightsA smart crossing, powered by artificial intelligence, was installed temporarily in London in OctoberIt is part of a wave of smart transport systems around the world that promise to bring safety and convenience
(CNN)Imagine a responsive pedestrian crosswalk that thinks for itself.
During rush hour, it automatically swells to accommodate more pedestrians. At quiet times, it disappears. If someone is playing on their phone while crossing, a warning pattern would appear on the ground to alert both them and nearby vehicles to the danger. That’s exactly what London-based tech company Umbrellium has designed: the Starling Crossing is an interactive crosswalk that responds dynamically to its environment.And it could be the future of how we interact with our cities.Read More”If you look around cities, there is technology dealing with so many different aspects of the way we relate to each other and our urban space,” says Usman Haque, founder of Umbrellium. “But the crossings that we are familiar with were designed several decades ago, and the way that we use cities is quite different now. It’s interesting that the crossing hasn’t yet had that kind of update.” Photos: Innovative transport systems around the worldAutonomous Rail Rapid Transit, China – In China, a rail bus that “glides” across the street underwent a test drive in Zhuzhou, Hunan province, in 2017.Hide Caption 1 of 12 Photos: Innovative transport systems around the worldAutonomous Rail Rapid Transit, China – Developed by Beijing-based rail transit equipment manufacturer CCRC, it navigates the road using motion sensors instead of a traditional track. It also features rubber wheels. Hide Caption 2 of 12 Photos: Innovative transport systems around the worldAutonomous Rail Rapid Transit, China – With a maximum speed of 70 kilometers (43 miles) per hour, it holds more than 500 passengers, and was designed to help to lessen heavy traffic in the city — which has a population of some 3.7 million people. Developers plan for it to be in use in 2018.Hide Caption 3 of 12 Photos: Innovative transport systems around the worldGlowing Lines, Netherlands – Designed by Rotterdam firm Studio Roosegaarde, Glowing Lines operates like the glow-in-the-dark stars children used to stick to their ceilings.Hide Caption 4 of 12 Photos: Innovative transport systems around the worldGlowing Lines, Netherlands – Panels on the smart highway absorb solar power during the day, enabling it to glow for eight hours at night.Hide Caption 5 of 12 Photos: Innovative transport systems around the worldGlowing Lines, Netherlands – A collaboration between Studio Roosegaarde and Dutch civil engineering company Heijmans, it was installed in 2014 on a 16,000 feet (4,570 meter) stretch of highway 60 miles outside of the Netherlands’ capital of Amsterdam.Hide Caption 6 of 12 Photos: Innovative transport systems around the worldVan Gogh Path, Netherlands – The Van Gogh Path, also by Studio Roosegaarde, is a 600-meter bike path lit by a coating on the road surface that gathers sunlight and emits energy in the evening.Hide Caption 7 of 12 Photos: Innovative transport systems around the worldVan Gogh Path, Netherlands – It’s inspired by legendary Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh’s painting “Starry Night”.Hide Caption 8 of 12 Photos: Innovative transport systems around the worldVan Gogh Path, Netherlands – It has been in use in Eindhoven — also known as Netherlands’ “City of Light” — since 2014.Hide Caption 9 of 12 Photos: Innovative transport systems around the worldMidtown in Motion, New York City, United States – New York City’s Department of Transportation has been running Midtown in Motion since 2011. The $1.6 million initiative aims to ease traffic in Midtown Manhattan by installing a series of traffic cameras and sensors, which are managed by engineers who can alter signal patterns to alleviate congestion based on the information collected by this technology.Hide Caption 10 of 12 Photos: Innovative transport systems around the worldSolar Roadways – A concept by Idaho inventors Scott and Julie Brusaw, this design calls for traditional petroleum-based asphalt highways to be replaced with a system of structurally engineered solar panels.Hide Caption 11 of 12 Photos: Innovative transport systems around the worldSolar Roadways – These would act as a massive energy generator that could feed the grid during daytime. They would also recharge electric vehicles while moving, thus helping to reduce greenhouse emissions drastically.Hide Caption 12 of 12Smart crossing Developed in England in the 1940s, the zebra crossing — as it was called back then — consists of a series of white stripes painted across a stretch of road, flanked by lights on each side, to offer pedestrians safe passage.The Starling Crossing keeps that familiar “zebra” pattern, but because its markings emerge from a 23 meter by 7.5 meter waterproof network of LED lights embedded into the road, it is able to modify its layout, size and even color on demand.The responsive surface of Starling Crossing protects pedestrians by illuminating the road to warn them of danger and guide them to safety.Here’s how it works. Two cameras positioned at opposite ends of the road are programmed to take about 25 images of the street per second. The crossing’s central nervous system processes these images, distinguishing between pedestrians, cyclists and cars.”Essentially, it has a classification system where it has learned what a car, a person, or a cyclist looks like — from different angles,” explains Haque. “It starts to recognize the features.” Based on this infrmation, the smart crossing can decide how to behave. The crossing also providers warning signals in situations where vehicles could cause blind spots for other road users.For example, if the system detects an elderly person, the crossing would stay illuminated for longer, to allow more time to cross the road.”One of the principles of an interactive crossing is that it should be able to learn over time the way that people use it,” Haque says. “If people are crossing in the wrong place all the time, the system would move the crossing nearer to that location to make things safer.” In October 2017, a Starling Crossing prototype was installed on a South London street for a month. User feedback, Haque says, was positive. Now the team has to work on rolling the crossing out in cities worldwide.