Rather than having to look up to check the lights at the crossing, "smombies" (a German neologism of "smartphone" and "zombie"), need only check the special LED lights which have been installed in the road surface, Sputnik Germany reported.
A spokeswoman for the local authority in Augsburg, Stephanie Lermen, told Sputnik that the special lights are not only useful for mobile phone users.
"Of course, these lights are not only intended for smartphone users. They increase road safety in general," she said.
"This came about because from time to time there are some upsetting incidents involving pedestrians. In Munich recently, unfortunately, a young girl was distracted by her smartphone and was killed by a tram."
Lermen said that while Augsburg has thankfully not faced such a tragedy, there have been several frightening cases of pedestrians not paying enough attention at crossings, and the town's authorities chose to pilot the new technology at two crossings by a set of tram stops where this happens particularly often.
"These LED lights are embedded in the pavement along the curb. When a tram approaches the ordinary traffic light switches to red and the floor light flashes red too," she explained.
"They are placed along the whole crossing 40 centimeters from each other, so that a pedestrian who is concentrating on their smartphone display will notice the flashing lights in their peripheral vision."
"It seems that this (technology) has not been used anywhere in this form before. The technical possibility gave us the idea, because LED lights can now be built into the road surface since they don't need a wired power supply. This technology is quite new and works like a charged-up smartphone. We simply used it for traffic lights – it's a logical step," Lermen said.
The local authorities in Augsburg are now going to monitor the impact of the new traffic lights on pedestrians and drivers, the spokeswoman explained.
"Pedestrians need about two weeks to get used to the system and understand what it means when the LED lights are flashing, and after that we can observe their behavior. With that in mind we are going to carry out observations at the crossings, and also analyze the (impact on) tram drivers," Lermen said.a recent survey from German vehicle and road safety experts Dekra, almost 17 percent of pedestrians use their smartphone in some way while in road traffic.
The survey observed people crossing the road in six European cities, and found that just under eight percent of pedestrians text while getting to the other side of the road.
A further 2.6 percent made calls, and around 1.4 percent of pedestrians managed to cross the road while doing both at the same time.