New Technology May Reduce Truck and Bus-Related Pedestrian Deaths

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As a pedestrian or bicyclist, you’re probably fully aware that trucks and buses pose some of the greatest risks to your safety. Most of the danger comes from the fact that these oversized-vehicles have long blind spots, making it extremely difficult for their drivers to notice you alongside if you’re riding your bike or walking.

Mirrors are only as good as what appears in them and, if they can’t see you, you’re vulnerable to serious injury or worse. In fact, it’s similar to the blind spot in your own vehicle, especially an SUV – except on a larger scale. You’ve probably had a close call at one time or another while using your mirror to change lanes, only to realize a small sedan you didn’t see was driving alongside.

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With many of today’s new vehicles being equipped with collision-avoidance systems, it was just a matter of time before technology took aim at reducing truck and bus accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists. And, that’s exactly what was showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show – a new collision avoidance system designed to alert drivers of such an impending crash. But, the intent of the device could go beyond saving lives.

One of the major players in the technology, Mobileye, a maker of vision-based automotive products, strongly believes that sensor collected data has the potential to do much more. Not only could it prevent future accidents at certain locations by identifying normal trouble spots, but it could also be used to assist urban planners to create safer environments for pedestrians and bicyclists.

According to Amnon Shashua, chief technology officer at the Israel-based company, data could be used “to send all the alerts and near-miss alerts back to the cloud and build a map showing where all the alerts spots happen, and that’s a tool for planners to use.”

It’s no secret that traffic fatalities in the United States are climbing, but even more alarming is the increase in fatalities involving those walking or riding outside the car. And, this troubling trend has not gone unnoticed by safety advocates, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

A memorial ghost bike stands at the corner of Pitt Street and Houston Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Bikes painted white are left on the street by friends and relatives when a cyclist has died in an accident. They serve both as a memorial tribute to the victim and a reminder to cyclists and drivers of how dangerous the busy streets of New York City can be. This bike is decorated with plastic flowers. Cars and taxis can be seen driving east along Houston Street. In November 2014 a 61 year old cyclist was hit and killed by a livery cab traveling along Houston Street.

The secretary expressed his belief that Mobileye’s “Shield +” technology could play an important role in the future development of smarter cities, having recently announced the creation of the “Smart City Challenge.”  The goal of the challenge is to award $40 million to a participating American city with the proposal that best combines data and technology to shape its future mobility.

Tesla Motors Roadster headquarters located at 3500 Deer Creek Palo Alto, CA 94304 photo by Jason Doiy

Tesla Motors has been using Mobileye technology to help power its “Autopilot” system, which appeared in some of the automaker’s Model S vehicles last October. Furthermore, the Shield+ technology has been used in commercial vehicles, according to Mobileye, claiming a 39 percent decline in overall collisions for customers using the technology.

While Mobileye and similar technology may not completely eliminate pedestrian and bicyclist deaths involving a truck or bus, any life it saves is a move in the right direction.

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New Technology May Reduce Truck and Bus-Related Pedestrian Deaths
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As a pedestrian or bicyclist, you’re probably fully aware that trucks and buses pose some of the greatest risks to your safety.
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