Skoda is developing unique technology which displays to pedestrians – via the car’s grille – when it’s safe to cross the road, as part of a wider trial scheme looking to make roads safer for children, senior citizens and people with disabilities.
The system replaces the Enyaq iV’s backlit Crystal Face grille with a new body featuring LED strip holders. These programmable LEDs can be controlled separately, making it possible to create unique animations.
When the car approaches a pedestrian crossing, it can warn those waiting to cross in advance that it has spotted them. It then stops and displays green arrows, for example, to tell them it’s safe to cross. Once they have crossed, and the car is about to set off, it can display a different signal to warn pedestrians that the car is moving. In more extreme examples, a car approaching the crossing that is unable to stop can send out a clear signal to pedestrians not to cross.
The symbols currently being tested include green arrows and a green person, plus a warning triangle or a red triangle with a cross – symbols that are widely recognisable.
Technology like this could potentially help to reduce the number of overall pedestrian injuries on the road, with more than 16,000 occurring in 2021, according to annual figures released by the Department for Transport in the UK in 2022.
Changes to the Highway Code in 2022 advises that pedestrians have priority at zebra crossings as part of a wider change with a new hierarchy of road users. Drivers should also now give way to pedestrians crossing, or waiting to cross a road they are driving into or out of. Therefore more vulnerable road users could benefit from the communications between cars and pedestrians at these locations.
Also included as part of a wider trial is a robotic rover called IPA2X, which has been designed to help children, seniors and people with disabilities cross the road safely. Experts from the Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics at the Czech Technical University in Prague (CIIRC), the Technical University of Munich and Skoda have been working together to develop this smart assistant, alongside the signalling radiator grille.
The robot, which is over two metres tall, looks like a mobile traffic light that makes its way to the middle of a pedestrian crossing. Once it gets there, it will display a green light and pedestrians can cross. The robot is constantly monitoring its surroundings, so it can detect that a car is approaching the crossing. With sensors located two metres high, it is able to see over parked cars. It then heads out into the road when it sees it’s safe to do so.
The robot displays both information for pedestrians and warnings for approaching cars – it shows approaching drivers a stop sign. It also sends a warning to the car itself, which is displayed as an animation on the infotainment display. Once the pedestrians have crossed the road, the robot goes back to the kerb.
The moment it reaches the kerb, the alert on the car’s dashboard disappears and the driver can continue on their way. Further developments of the robot will look to also provide audio warnings.