Thursday, 12 May 2016

The German Traffic Light for Smartphone Zombies

traffic_light
Credit: Thomas Hosemann/City of Augsburg

Smartphone Zombie – Substantial Safety Risk


The word `smombie’ is said to be one of the latest addition to the German language. Last November, the term mashup of smartphone and zombie denoting to unaware smartphone users staggering around the cities like the undead had been voted Youth Word of the Year in Germany. Smartphone zombie is a pedestrian who tends to walk slowly and without much attention to their surroundings since they have their focus on their smartphone. It has now become a substantial safety risk since the preoccupied user could result in an accident.

Cities like Chongqing and Antwerp have now introduced special lanes for smartphone users in order to help direct and handle them. China had over 5 hundred million smartphone users, in 2014 and more than half of them had phone addiction. In Chongqing, the government had built a cell phone pavement which separated the phone users and the non-phone users and in Hong Kong, they are known as dai tau juk – the head-down tribe. The disease is said to be infectious. Latest study of 14,000 pedestrians in Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Paris, Rome and Stockholm showed that 17% of the people utilised their smartphone while walking and the substantial users were 25 to 35 years old and nearly a quarter of them showed smombie-esque behaviour.

Install New Traffic Light at Ground Levels


Augsburg, a municipality outside Munich has now braced itself for this new public peril and after many smombies had caused accidents by carelessly crossing tram tracks, the city officials had decided to install new traffic light at ground levels. At HaunstetterstraBe station, one of the two location intended for experiment, 16 red LEDs, each of which were the size of a beer mat had been embedded in the pavement next to a tram crossing. Passengers had been divided according to their merits.

Katja Lechner shuttles here daily to university and states that you really do see the lights blinking when the tram tends to approach but that does not stop anybody from crossing since people seem to rush to catch their trains. She is of the opinion that the €10,000 could have been invested in education. Arzu Araz, a hairdresser living nearby with her seven year old daughter seems to disagree and states that `the lights are ideal for kids who seem to notice them instantly’.

Smartphone Enabled with Corresponding App – Watch Out


Augsburg does not seem to be the first city to react. Cologne has prepared three trams crossing with same lights, prompting the creation of another portmanteau - `Bompeln’ which is an abbreviation of `Boden-Ampeln’ – ground traffic lights. In Munich, where a 15 year old girl with her headphones on, was killed by the tram recently, definite dangerous crossings had been fitted with special beacons which send warnings to smartphone enabled with a corresponding app known as `Watch Out’.

Meanwhile in the US, cities like Portland, Seattle and Cleveland have tested with talking buses which alert pedestrians during turns while Rexburg, Idaho have even imposed fines of $50 for walking and texting. A theme park in the Chinese city of Chongqing had experimented that tested with a special `phone lane’ for pedestrians based on an earlier investigation in Washington, DC. Augsburg official, after an experimental period, will be interviewing tram drivers as well as passengers before determining whether to roll the lights out to other stations.

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