Austin Transportation Department looks to future with pedestrian connected-vehicle technology

The pilot will take place along Rosewood Avenue at the intersection of Navasota and Angelina Streets. (Courtesy Austin Transportation Department)

To improve road safety, a pilot is out in East Austin to warn vehicles when a pedestrian is about to cross the street. The program, overseen by the Austin Transportation Department, takes place at two intersections on Rosewood Avenue: Angelina Street and Navasota Street.

When a pedestrian presses the signal at one of the intersections, it warns oncoming drivers whose vehicles are connected to wireless networks or connected vehicles that someone is trying to cross. It also warns when the driver is run over a red light.

“Distracted driving is one of the main causes of accidents, so the likelihood that the driver will intervene and do something is all the more likely if drivers are additionally warned when they have something ahead of them,” says Joseph McKenzie, project manager at Smart Mobility Office of the transport department.

In addition to displaying messages for networked vehicles, the zebra crossings also have rapid flashing lights that go out when the pedestrian presses the junction button.

The effort represents a step towards a future where drivers have access to significantly more information, McKenzie said. For example, a driver can see a countdown that shows how many seconds it will take for a traffic light to turn green or if a driver is driving in the wrong direction, which is already available on SH 45 SW.

“What we need to do as a city is understand how this technology works and start preparing and planning efforts to take advantage of the security application,” said McKenzie.

The technology for the project runs on solar power and is provided by TAPCO and Siemens. The two companies assume the project costs, while the traffic department monitors the right of way during the pilot project, according to a city spokesman.