2002 Conference Proceedings

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EVALUATION OF PEDESTRIAN INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS-A FOR VISUALLY IMPAIRED PERSONS

Teruyuki TAJIMA, Toshinaga AOTANI
Universal Traffic Management Society of Japan

Kunio KURACHI, Hirohiko OHKUBO
Mitsubishi Precision Company
345 Kamimachiya, Kamakura, Japan 247-8505
E-mail: ohkubohr@mpcnet.co.jp

ABSTRACT

Pedestrian Information and Communication Systems-A (PICS-A) have been under development for the purposes to provide the visually impaired persons with the appropriate information for safety, easy, convenient and comfortable travels in a timely manner and consequently improve their quality of daily lives.

Infrared beacons installed around the intersection to provide visually impaired persons with voice information and directions to go. Field tests of PICS-A have been conducted for two times to verify its effectiveness and operability. Most of participants evaluated that this system work very effectively. New PICS-A has been added another function to provide system service available information with voice or vibration.

INTRODUCTION

We have been developing Pedestrian Information and Communication Systems-A (PICS-A) for the purposes to provide the visually impaired persons with the appropriate information in a timely manner and support their safety, easy, convenient and comfortable travels. This consequently improves their quality of daily lives.

According to research and study about information services required by the visually impaired persons, prototypes of voice information service system (PICS-A) has been developed. The first field test was conducted on the PICS-A at the intersection near JR Shinyokohama station in November 1998. Based on the results of this field test this system has been improved to much higher level of the completion. The next field test was conducted on PICS-A in February 2000 through January 2001 at near JR Isogo station in Yokohama City to evaluate and verify effectiveness of this system.

INFORMATION SERVICES REQUIRED

Group interviews have been conducted to check what kinds of information services are required by visually impaired persons during their travels. As the results, especially at intersection, such information services as follows are required for visually impaired persons to support their safety, easy, convenient and comfortable travels.

CONFIGURATION AND FIELD TESTS

We applied infrared (Ir) beacon as the media to provide information to handy terminal. Infrared communication has merits of secured communication in the designated area because of its sharp directivity. The utilization image of PICS-A is shown on figure-1.

System utilization conceptFigure-1 System Utilization Concept

PICS-A transmits local information such as the name of intersection, walking direction, status of pedestrian signal lights from the Ir Station installed near the pedestrian signal lights.

Visually impaired persons scan their handy terminal toward the intersection and catch the voice message informing the name of intersection and direction for walking. They can reach to the intersection if they walk toward the direction where they get the clearest voice message. They can know the status of pedestrian signal lights at the intersection. Scanning their handy terminals, they can get the direction to cross the intersection before they start walking and know the timing to start walking.

1. First field test

The first field test on the PICS-A was conducted to have 27 (male 16, female 11; blind 17, low vision 10) participants in total. This system is evaluated by these participants as "feel easy at the intersection" for visually impaired persons and verified as an effective and usable.Test scene is shown in Figure-2.


fig-1 test scene of first field testFigure-2   Test scene of first field test

2. Second field test

Next field test based on the results of the first field test to reflect improvements on PICS-A. PICS-A has been improved to reflect the results of the first field test, "select words carefully for providing much easier voice message" and "provide information till the both end of crosswalk continuously".

Ir Stations of PICS-A were installed more expanded area to set up test environments closer to the actual operation.

Stand alone Ir Station is installed to provide each of additional information services such as trains' departure and arrival information in gearing time table and clock, location of entrance/exit and fare machines inside of the railway station and elevator, bus stop, bank office, Koban and entrances of supermarket store. Participants travel along with voice information provided by Ir Stations installed at each point using their handy terminals.

23 visually impaired participants (male 12, female 11; blind 10, low vision 9) joined the field test and 22 visually impaired candidate (male 11,female 11; blind 13, low vision 9) experienced the system during February 2000 to January 2001 to evaluate and verify effectiveness of the system.

Test scene is shown in Figure-3.And PICS-A at station and Koban are shown in figure-4 and 5.

fig-3 test scene of second field testFigure-3  Test scene of second field test

fig-4 PICS-A at StationFigure-4   PICS-A at Station

fig-5 PICS-A at KobanFigure-5   PICS-A at Koban

Questionnaire and hearing survey are conducted to participants during and after the test. The results of questionnaire and hearing conducted to participants in the field test are shown in Table-1. It is believed that good evaluation was obtained through field tests conducted to verify system functions, characteristics and effectiveness of pedestrian information services.

Table-1 PICS-A Test Results
Questionnaire Answer: Yes Answer: Pending Answer: No
Is it easy to judge the direction to the intersection? 92.6 % 7.4 % 0.0 %
Is it easy to recognize the name of intersection? 96.3 % 0.0 % 3.7 %
Is it easy to judge the arrival to the intersection? 77.8 % 14.8 % 7.4 %
Is it easy to judge the direction to cross the road? 96.3 % 0.0 % 3.7 %
Is it easy to judge the status of pedestrian lights? 100.0 % 0.0 % 0.0 %
Is it easy to judge the timing to start walking? 96.3 % 0.0 % 3.7 %
Is it easy to judge the direction when walking the crosswalk? 88.9 % 7.4 % 3.7 %
Is it easy to judge the arrival to opposite side of the crosswalk? 85.2 % 11.1 % 3.7 %
Is it relief to cross the road, if the system is installed? 96.3 % 3.7 % 0.0 %

CONCLUSION

Most of participants evaluated that PICS-A system works very effectively.
And National Police Agency of Japan conducted New PICS-A system field test based on above results. New PICS-A has two additional functions to provide more convenient services to visually impaired persons.
One is broadcasting "information on intersection name and service is available there" by radiowave, so users can hear the voice message without holding handy terminal. And if he/she wants to get that information in silent mode, he/she can select vibration mode like a cellular phone.
The second is users can send request for extending the time duration of green light (walk sign) period.
This new PICS-A system has installed to 17 cities in Japan on March 2001. National Police Agency is planning to conduct evaluation test of new system by next March.
It is highly expected that the system become popular in near future.
For the future ITS, providing the convenience to pedestrians will be essential as well as providing solution to vehicle traffic problem.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

It is appreciated for kind cooperation and assistance that a lot of precious opinions and suggestions are given by Professor Tauchi-Okayama Prefectural University, Yokohama Rehabilitation Center, National Police Agency of Japan, Kanagawa Prefectural Police Headquarter and participants to these tests.

REFERENCES

Reference documents:

[1] Japan Traffic Management Technology Association: Survey on pedestrian signal lights for providing better mobility of visually impaired persons. (Survey on March, 2001)


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