south korea ilsan

South Korea installs lasers at road crossing to alert ‘zombie’ smartphone users

Image credit: reuters

Flickering lights and laser beams have been installed at a road crossing in the South Korean city of Ilsan to warn pedestrians glued to their smartphones to look up and take notice of the traffic.

South Korea reportedly has the world’s highest smartphone penetration rate as well as some of the highest road fatality and injury rates among developed countries.

According to Reuters, the designers of the system were prompted by concerns that an increasing number of pedestrians remain glued to their phones when crossing the roads.

State-run Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT) believes its system of flickering lights at zebra crossings can warn both pedestrians and drivers.

In addition to red, yellow and blue LED lights on the pavement, ‘smombies’ - smartphone zombies - will be warned by laser beam projected from power poles and an alert sent to the phones by an app that they are about to step into traffic.

“Increasing number of smombie accidents have occurred in pedestrian crossings, so these zombie lights are essential to prevent these pedestrian accidents,” said KICT senior researcher Kim Jong-hoon.

The multi-dimensional warning system is operated by radar sensors and thermal cameras and comes with a price tag of 15 million won (£10,000) per crossing.

Drivers are alerted by the flashing lights, which have shown to be effective 83.4 per cent of the time in the institute’s tests involving about 1,000 vehicles.

In 2017, more than 1,600 pedestrians were killed in auto related accidents, which is about 40 percent of total traffic fatalities, according to data from the Traffic Accident Analysis System.

South Korea has the world’s highest smartphone penetration rate, according to Pew Research Center, with about 94 per cent of adults owning the devices in 2017, compared with 77 per cent in the United States and 59 per cent in Japan.

For now, the smombie warning system is installed only in Ilsan, a suburban city about 30km north-west of the capital, Seoul, but is expected to go nationwide, according to the institute.

Kim Dan-hee, a 23-year-old resident of Ilsan, welcomed the system, saying she was often too engrossed in her phone to remember to look at traffic.

“This flickering light makes me feel safe as it makes me look around again, and I hope that we can have more of these in town,” she said.

Last year Singapore started installing smart lampposts which include an array of sensors and cameras allowing authorities to recognise individual faces in a crowd.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles