Simulation of texting at Shibuya crossing goes viral

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

What would happen if 1,500 pedestrians walked across the famous crossing in front of Tokyo’s Shibuya Station while using their smartphones?

Only 36 percent would make it to the other side because many would bump into each other or fall, according to a computer simulation by NTT Docomo Inc. that is generating a buzz on the Internet.

The nation’s top carrier posted on March 28 a video clip of the simulation to raise awareness of the dangers of texting while walking. It had been viewed more than 1.87 million times as of Thursday.

“Staring at a smartphone screen while walking distracts your attention from what is going on around you and is very dangerous. And it’s not only dangerous for you, but there is also the possibility of involving other people in a major accident,” Docomo said in a statement on YouTube, adding that one in five people who use smartphones while walking becomes involved in an accident or is otherwise injured.

As the trend in texting while walking grows, the carrier decided to study how much danger pedestrians were risking, it said. The simulation set up 1,500 people walking at speeds of 3, 4 or 6 kph. Each simulated pedestrian was 160 cm tall and weighed 58 kg, the median for Japanese.

It assumed that pedestrians who text while walking have a range of vision one-twentieth that of normal, so they cannot see obstacles until they are 1.5 meters away. Pedestrians who fail to avoid a collision either apologize, fall down or drop their phone.

The pedestrians had 46 seconds to cross before the signal turned red.

The result of the simulation was that there were 446 collisions leading to 103 cases of falling and 21 dropped phones. Only 547 pedestrians crossed without incident.