Tokyo ranked once again as the most populous city in the world last year. And it is a city choked with traffic: at the famous Shibuya crossing, for instance, more than a thousand pedestrians cross from eight different points every two minutes. But the rise of a not-so-new technology in Japan has got some people worried for those pedestrians’ safety. That technology: the smartphone. In March, Japan’s major mobile provider NTT Docomo released a video simulation of what would happen if every commuter at Shibuya crossing tried to cross while looking down at their smartphones. It’s a little goofy, of course, but the long story short is that slower walking, reduced field of vision, and general lack of awareness when it comes to one’s surroundings meant that only 36% of the simulated pedestrians even got across before the light turned and car traffic resumed. It’s funny to watch, but likely not so funny to be a part of.
And smartphones in Japan are not going away. In 2012, only a quarter of the Japanese had smartphones. As of now, that number has risen to about half, and continues to grow at an astonishing rate.