An intelligent pedestrian device : social, psychological and other issues of feasibility
An Intelligent Pedestrian Device (IPD) is a new concept in pedestrian safety. It is defined as a microprocessor based information device which detects the approach of oncoming vehicles and informs the pedestrian whether or not it is safe to cross. IPDs could be portable or fixed to a roadside station. They could help reduce pedestrian accidents, which cost £2681 million in the UK in 1994. This study aims to assess whether the concept is socially acceptable and what the design criteria might be. A study of social acceptance involved group interviews of 5-10 participants with 84 pedestrians in five categories: adults aged 18-60, elderly aged 65+, visually restricted, parents of children aged 5-9 and children aged 10-14. The results suggest that vulnerable pedestrians are more positive about the device than the more able-bodied. Theories that may help explain this are discussed and it is concluded that, with education and marketing, the IPD could gain a degree of social acceptance. Observation of more than 900 pedestrian crossing movements at four different sites showed a range of behaviours, and that people often take risks in order to reduce delay. IPDs will require pedestrians to change some of their behaviours, especially those that are risky. Legal acceptance will demand high levels of costly product research and development, and a portable device will not be technologically feasible until well into the next century. However, the wider social benefits of IPDs may be worth the costs. An outline of design criteria for basic and sophisticated portable IPDs is given, and alternative functions are suggested. It is recommended that further work concentrate on developing software and hardware for fixed modes of IPD. It is concluded that, ultimately, acceptance will probably depend on whether Government decides that the IPD has a place in the road environment of the future.