Some of us just can’t help but to be clumsy. We stub our toes, bang our knees against furniture, and accidentally cut ourselves when preparing meals. Luckily, these pains only endure for a short time. Other people are more prone to serious accidents, like riding into pedestrians while cycling, hitting vehicles while attempting to parallel park, and colliding with other drivers on the road.
Alt-A, a Uiwang-si, South Korea-based traffic data company, is making the shared spaces of our city streets, sidewalks, and bike paths safer and smarter to navigate. By using a dynamic system of 3D mapping, real-time data collection, and intelligent sensor technologies, they are filling a gap in our infrastructure that is seldom covered by public officials.
According to research conducted by the Korea Road Traffic Authority, there are 1.5 million traffic accidents in South Korea each year. Alt-A CEO Taewoo Lee noticed that of those accidents, about 20 percent of them happened on private land. Such accidents were happening in the parking lots of condos, businesses, malls, and on the streets of university campuses. In many countries, traffic laws do not apply on private property, which means that the drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians at fault cannot be issued road safety violations. South Korea is one of those countries.
It is rare to see traffic lights on private land, regardless of how much they may or may not be needed there. The fact of the matter is that installing standard traffic lights is just too expensive for most private property owners. Instead, you are more likely to see a simple stop sign, a convex mirror, or no signage at all. Hoping that people will be careful and courteous is unfortunately not enough, especially when it comes to making right turns.
To help keep us all safe, Alt-A has created an affordable and easy solution for private property owners called the Smart Safety Beacon. This “beacon” consists of a traffic light a motion sensor camera. As a vehicle approaches a blind spot, the camera looks around for any possible object that it may collide with. If an object is detected, the traffic light flashes red, hopefully causing the driver to slow down.
In April 2017, Alt-A installed a pilot version of the Smart Safety Beacon at Dankook University in Yongin, South Korea. After monitoring its effect over a two-week period, they found that the campus had become a safer place for both cyclists and pedestrians. “Previously, a driver made a right (turn) within the campus of Dankook University with the average speed of 40 kmh (about 25 mph),” said Lee in a video dedicated to the pilot project. “However, the speed was significantly down to 25 kmh (or 16 mph) right after the installation of the Smart Safety Beacon.” The technology also made pedestrians and cyclists more aware of oncoming motorists, allowing them to stop 13 feet away as opposed to four feet (the average distance prior to the pilot intervention).
Thanks to the success of the Smart Safety Beacon, Alt-A is now able to develop products for bike paths and highway rest stops and create technologies to combat illegal parking. Though they are inventing smart city hardware, they see themselves as a data company above all else — which is exactly why they’re currently providing traffic data from private properties to automobile manufacturers, navigation apps, and self-driving car companies.