South Korean crosswalk uses radar, lasers to stop phone-related wrecks

The country is reportedly taking high-tech steps to make sure "smartphone zombies" don't walk into traffic.

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Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
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Shelby Brown
2 min read
Texting and walking

"Smartphone zombies" is a pop culture term for people who can't look away from their phones.

Richard Levine/Getty images

We've all seen viral videos of people paying more attention to a phone than where they're going. The results are generally comical: tripping, falling or running into something. It's not always funny though. Some  phone -obsessed people, referred to as "smartphone zombies" in popular culture, are becoming injured in road accidents.

To combat the problem, the South Korean city of Ilsan has reportedly installed a system at a crosswalk that alerts pedestrians and warns cars to slow down. Thermal imaging and radar detect approaching people and cars, according to a Monday report from Reuters.

The crosswalk glows with colorful, flickering lights and laser beams warning people to look up and drivers to slow down. The system, designed by the state-run Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology, pairs with an app that sends a warning message when the crosswalk lights are triggered. It says "Wait. A car is coming," according to Reuters.


South Korea's cross walk warning system in action.


An "increasing number of smombie [that's short for smartphone zombie] accidents have occurred in pedestrian crossings, so these zombie lights are essential to prevent these pedestrian accidents," said Kim Jong-hoon, a senior researcher for the KICT, according to Reuters. 

So far, there's only one crosswalk warning system installed in front of the Inje University Ilsan Paik Hospital. 

"Our research team is planning to install more crosswalk lights in Jeju and other local government in Korea, this and next year," Jong-hoon said in an email.

The price tag is a steep 15 million won, or $13,250, per crosswalk, according to Reuters. The system's developers expect South Korean government officials to adopt the program nationwide.

Originally published March 19.
Update, March 20: Adds more details about further crosswalk warning system construction.

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