Yanko Design has come up with the Virtual Wall concept (it was discussed on the ITE Traffic Engineering Listserv this week – thanks Pradeep). It's basically a hologram that will pop up between the cars and crosswalk when pedestrians in the crosswalk have the walk signal. Regular readers know I'm quite open to new ideas related to our industry. This one doesn't strike me as a good one though.
The virtual wall doesn't provide any more protection for the pedestrian. A mom could still be turned around dealing with her baby's pacifier and blow through the intersection – hologram and all. Sure, the mom would be at fault and would probably end up doing jail time for maiming/killing the pedestrian. But I'd rather have pedestrians (including me and my kids) be cautious and alive instead of "right" and dead.
Now as a traffic engineer I might be in favor of the traffic signal's computer forcing the car to brake so they can't run a red light, but I'll stop before I step into Big Brother land.
On a side note. The picture shows the hologram up when the signal is yellow. I'd think the hologram would pop up after the light turns red. Imagine the liability of shooting a hologram right in front of someone's face when they're legally entering the intersection?