South Korea goes full Daft Punk to keep smartphone users out of intersections

Engineers in Ilsan, South Korea, have installed a system of LED lights and lasers to help alert smartphone-using pedestrians of traffic.

Kyle Hyatt Former news and features editor
Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has long called Los Angeles home. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new).
Kyle Hyatt
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Smartphone usage is more prevalent in South Korea than anywhere else and some people are unknowingly walking into traffic.

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I don't know about you guys, but I'm terrified of looking at my phone for more than a second while I'm walking. It seems that in South Korea many people have no such fear, and so some of them -- smartphone zombies as they're called there, or smombies -- are blundering into traffic with their faces buried in their phones .

This is a massive problem for both drivers and pedestrians, and to help curb the issue, developers from the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT) are getting creative, according to a report published Tuesday by Reuters.

To start, officials have installed a series of flashing lights in the pavement at a crosswalk in the city of Ilsan, South Korea. These lights are triggered by radar sensors and thermal cameras installed at the crosswalk.

If the flashing lights fail to get the attention of unaware pedestrians, there are also laser projectors mounted on power line poles and even a GPS-linked app that sends an alert to the pedestrian's phone. Even if all this doesn't work on the "smombie" it should have some effect on the drivers approaching an intersection that looks like a Daft Punk concert, prompting them to slow down.

These may seem like extreme measures, but South Korea has seen a steady increase in the number of automotive-related pedestrian deaths in recent years. In 2017, more than 1,600 pedestrians died as a result of incidents with cars. So, when you look at that, the approximately $14,000 cost to outfit a crosswalk with this equipment isn't so crazy.

South Korea beyond Samsung

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