Pedestrian safety is an increasing concern in cities around the world as pedestrian deaths have consistently risen over the past decade. One possible contributing factor to this rise in pedestrian deaths is an increase in distracted pedestrian behavior, specifically using smart phones and other mobile devices while walking.
Smart phone-based pedestrian alert systems may be one solution to distracted pedestrian behavior. These systems use some combination of smartphone cameras, smartphone sensors, and connected vehicle technology to produce pedestrian alerts. In theory, these systems could monitor the roadways for pedestrians and alert them to the presence of vehicles of other hazards particularly before or during street crossing.
To study the potential effectiveness of pedestrian alert systems, a research team based out of Duke University tested the effectiveness of these systems in a live, outdoor environment.
The team recruited thirty participants between the ages of 19 and 57. The team then setup a test track with numerous safety features in place. The study had the pedestrians walk towards an intersection while playing a simple maze game on a smartphone to simulate distraction. The smart phones had a remotely-controlled alerting system that artificially triggered vehicle alerts of varying reliability to simulate a fully functioning pedestrian alert app. The team recorded pedestrian behaviors over the course of several trials.
- Out of the 900 crossing events carried out, 20 percent were declared risky or unsafe.
- These results suggest that the pedestrian alert system had little effect on behavior, as prior studies without such tools have found about 20 percent of pedestrian crossings to be risky or unsafe.