Austin will use laser technology to help make this dangerous intersection safer

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — There’s an intersection in Austin that’s getting some attention for its bad track record.

East 7th Street and Springdale Road are part of Austin’s High-Injury Network, or roads that make up just 8% of the city’s streets but account for nearly 70% of the city’s serious injury or deadly crashes.

“I’m here from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day,” said Aeliin Martinez.

She works at Rivera Welding six days a week and often witnesses car crashes at the intersection.

“There was a guy over here in a motorcycle — really, really bad crash,” Martinez recalled. “He had no helmet on, went through the windshield on someone’s car. It was very bad.”

Martinez said she also worries for the cyclists and pedestrians.

“I always get scared when I see them pass by,” she said.

East 7th Street & Springdale Road
Aeliin Martinez has only been working at Rivera Welding for a year but said she’s seen multiple car accidents. (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)

The City of Austin is partnering with Velodyne to pilot its lidar sensors. The company said its laser technology creates real-time, 3D maps they said are not possible with other sensors like cameras or radar.

“This particular technology would give us the ability to measure a person’s gait and, say they’re an elderly person… be able to extend that walk time across that intersection, so that person can safely, at their pace, make it across the intersection,” explained Jason JonMichael, Austin Transportation Department’s assistant director.

And unlike cameras, the lasers track data without taking pictures, which is personally identifiable information the city has to remove from its system afterward.

They also hope to gather more information for possible long-term solutions, like infrastructure or policy in the area.

“We want to understand not only how well does the technology work, is it ready? Is it something that we should be looking at how we invest in that? Or make decisions on how we’re going to plan for that… change in our system?” JonMichael said.

JonMichael’s team said this pilot program will launch once they get the technology, which they hope will be in the coming weeks.

Martinez hopes it will be effective.

“Hopefully they do something to change this, because we need change here,” she said.

That way, she can be a little less anxious about her own safety as well as that of her coworkers, customers and community.

“You never know every time you come to work. Never know if someone’s going to pass away right here in front of you,” she said.

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