Technology distractions are negatively impacting pedestrian safety. Pedestrians are spending increasingly more time on their smartphones. Studies have shown that 26% pedestrians text or email, 51% talk on the phone and 36% listen to music while crossing the street.
In cities like New York and San Francisco, municipalities have started painting "LOOK!" signs at crosswalks in an attempt to alert pedestrians who text and walk. We believe that a technology solution would be more effective for the problem at hand. An important role of the smartphone is to enhance our safety by steering our attention back to the real world. Our application generates targeted electronic alerts when the pedestrian is entering the street, and urges the pedestrian to Look Up!.
Existing technology approaches use the camera on the smartphone for pedestrian safety. This approach needs direct line of sight to the approaching vehicle, which is not possible if the pedestrian is walking and texting. We propose two approaches that detect when a pedestrian is crossing the street. The smartphone only approach uses the GPS available on the smartphone to predict the pedestrian's path of motion. It alerts the distracted pedestrian if the predicted path intersects with a street, indicating that the pedestrian is about to enter the street. It works whether you cross the street at an intersection or a midblock location. Our second approach is that of wearable sensing. We use shoe mounted sensors for creating ground profiles and identifying road features that separate street and sidewalk, such as ramps and curbs. When a pedestrian transitions from sidewalk to street via ramps and curbs, he is alerted to look up and be careful. The application runs in the background and does not affect the user's interaction with the phone. A warning look up sign overlays on the user's active screen. With this application, we hope to enhance pedestrian safety without altering their way of life.