Starling Crossing: The First Smart Pedestrian Crossing System Is Unveiled in London

Improving the antiquated U.S. pedestrian crossing systems dating back to the 1940’s, London-based software company Umbrellium has introduced the first “smart” pedestrian crossing technology, called The Starling Crossing, for Stigmergy Adaptive Responsive Learning Crossing.

Stigmergy, according to Wikipedia is:

“The principle is that the trace left in the environment by an action stimulates the performance of a next action, by the same or a different agent.

“In that way, subsequent actions tend to reinforce and build on each other, leading to the spontaneous emergence of coherent, apparently systematic activity.”

The stigmergy-inspired project, commissioned by the insurance company, The Direct Line, is a 72-foot-long streetscape that “reacts dynamically in real-time to different conditions and is able to differentiate between cars, cyclists and pedestrians,” Umbrellium says in their company literature.

The roads at Starling Crossing are paved with cameras embedded with computer-controlled LEDs that can be viewed from all angles during both day and night.

“Our full-scale prototype installed temporarily in South London is designed to support the weight of vehicles, remain slip-free in pouring rain and display markings that are bright enough to be seen during daytime,” the company says.

Pubs Closing and Pedestrians Tweeting

Cameras track objects that move across the road, calculating their precise locations, trajectories and velocities, while anticipating their future movements.

Depending on the time of day and the traffic, the Starling system responds dynamically to ensure safety.

For example, “later in the day, when pubs close or a film ends and many people need to cross the road at the same time, the smart pedestrian crossing system automatically expands in width to accommodate increased pedestrian traffic,” Umbrellium says.

When pedestrians are distracted by their cell phones and veer too close to the road as a vehicle approaches, a warning light surrounding the pedestrians’ field of vision flashes, alerting them to the danger of being struck.

When children run into the street, Starling creates a virtual buffer zone around them. Drivers and cyclists will see the danger ahead.

When pedestrians are in a driver’s or cyclist’s blind spot, the Starling draws their attention directly to the pedestrians’ location and trajectory.

The Starling Crossing can also reconfigure itself, adapting to hazardous weather conditions by creating a larger pedestrian buffer zone.

Principles of Stigmergy

Using the principles of stigmergy, the Starling Crossing is able to monitor and anticipate pedestrian desires.

For example, if most people exiting a subway station end up walking diagonally across the road toward a park entrance, the Crossing is able to reconfigure itself as a diagonal or even trapezoidal crossing, with corresponding safety buffer zones.

“The Starling Crossing is a pedestrian crossing, built on today’s technology, that puts people first, enabling them to cross safely the way they want to cross, rather than one that tells them they can only cross in one place or a fixed way,” the company says.


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