City of Austin testing new tech to reduce pedestrian deaths

The City of Austin is testing a new technology that could reduce the number of auto-pedestrian crashes.

The city along with Siemens and TAPCO launched a pilot for a Pedestrian Crosswalk Warning System in East Austin on Rosewood Avenue at the intersection of Angelina and Navasota streets. When someone pushes the crosswalk button, it sends an alert to all nearby cars capable of receiving the wireless alert.

"Newer vehicles right now do have a level of connectivity. But most vehicles at this point don't have the capability to talk to infrastructure but that's changing. Volkswagen in Europe is using this technology already. More manufacturers here domestically are going to be producing it," said Joseph McKenzie, project manager, Austin Transportation Department Smart Mobility Office.

Austin wants to get ahead of the game now. Traffic fatalities are up this year according to the Austin Transportation Department and they hope to combat distracted driving with this tool in the future.

"The NHTSA has done some studies that connected vehicle technologies could have potential to reduce accidents by 80 percent of the time. Distracted driving is obviously a huge issue especially with the infotainment that is available in vehicles today, smart phones that are available today," said McKenzie.

City officials hope to take what would normally be a distraction, such as your cell phone, and use it as an alert system. Companies are already testing the tech on smart phones.

"When those vehicles start coming off the assembly line being connected, Austin will be ahead of the curve knowing how to deploy the technology. Not a lot of transportation DOT’s are that progressive to be looking at this stuff early," said Mike Long, manager of product management at TAPCO.

If the pilot goes well, the city hopes to install more of the roadside unit/detection technology at other crosswalks, and retrofit where necessary.

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