The days of pedestrians needing to push a button and wait for the lights to turn red so they can cross the road could soon be coming to an end.

New ‘smart’ traffic lights will automatically turn red if they detect pedestrians building up at a toucan, pelican or puffin crossing (read our full guide to crossings here).

For you, the motorist, it means a reduction in the number of times you have to stop during a journey. This in turn will potentially reduce congestion as well as cut down on the emissions generated by cars stopping and moving off again from crossings.

Such emissions cuts are vital as 40,000 deaths a year in the UK are linked to air pollution, according to the Royal College of Physicians.

Go slow

The potential downside is that red lights could stay on for longer as the new lights sensor can detect when a slow-moving person is approaching the crossing – think elderly person or someone carrying heavy items – and ensure the red light stays on long enough for them to get across.

The sensor’s artificial intelligence is even smart enough to figure out if a person walking towards a crossing from 15 metres away intends to use it by analysing how they are approaching, i.e, if they are walking up to the crossing to use it or intend to stroll on by.

“What we can now do is use cameras to make better use of crossings, giving priority when needed and more fairly than traditional systems allow. As economies build back, information about pedestrian numbers, and making sure that crossing points operate efficiently, will be particularly important for urban areas.”

• Brian Jackson, chief executive of Now Wireless, the maker of the new smart system to the Times newspaper.

Track record

The company behind the new smart traffic light solution also unveiled a system to help protect cyclists last year. A camera mounted on traffic lights are able to ‘see’ an approaching biker coming up to a junction.

If safe to do so, the traffic light will change to green, giving the cyclist priority and helping them stay safer on busy urban roads.

Both new technologies are being trialled by selected councils and, if all goes well, they could soon be rolled out nationwide.

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