#278: Jaywaking

I sometimes spend time in a city centre office, through the window of which filter all sorts of distracting noises. One of the most irritating is that ubiquitous, recorded alert that says “vehicle reversing” every second or so. People are so used to hearing that monotone that they don’t bother to look up -until they are alerted to the fact that it was addressing them by finding a 3-tonne truck rolling over their foot.

We have allowed urban environments to bring motor vehicles and people into ever-closer proximity and it’s proving to be a bad idea. Today’s invention attempts to reduce the accident rate caused by paying too much attention to incoming music or speech.


Vehicles would be fitted with two small, coded transmitters (one fore, one aft). The devices carried by earphoned pedestrians would receive these signals, enabling them to predict a collision (based on knowledge of positions, achieved via triangulation, and a simple computation of their relative motions).

On prediction of an imminent impact, the sounds being listened to would mute and a warning squawk would be issued.

This might even be extended to allow vehicles, sensing a pedestrian on their immediate trajectory, to brake appropriately.

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