Crosswalks in East Austin can now talk to smart cars — to improve pedestrian safety

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Imagine you’re driving down the road and getting a heads up letting you know there’s a pedestrian waiting to cross.

That’s the goal behind the new pedestrian crosswalk warning system in east Austin.

The City of Austin’s Transportation Department Smart Mobility Office teamed up with TAPCO and Siemens to install the new system on Rosewood Avenue at Angelina and Navasota streets. It’s an area where east Austin native Anthony Martin has seen too many close calls.

“I’ve seen people almost get hit by a car,” Martin said. “He was on a scooter and he went across and the car didn’t see him and almost hit him about a week ago.”

Crosswalk sign in east Austin at the intersection of Rosewood Avenue and Angelina Street (KXAN/Candy Rodriguez)

Deadly crashes involving pedestrians in Austin are up 27% compared to this time last year and overall crashes are up 4%. The new warning system aims to reduce the number of crashes by using technology to warn drivers there is a pedestrian nearby ready to cross.

“Around 90% of motor vehicle incidents are caused by human error so we are trying to deploy some of this technology that will increase safety,” Luke Urie the Capital Improvement Progam Manager for the City of Austin said.

Whenever a pedestrian pushes the crosswalk button nearby smart cars will get a signal warning drivers a pedestrian’s ready to cross. For those who don’t own a smart car, drivers will be alerted by flashing lights.

Transportation officials said they’re improving pedestrian safety while using technology as a virtual helping hand.

“We have to move with technology, that’s the way time is moving today,” Martin said. “We can’t stay stuck.”

The pilot program will run for a year and the city plans to release data in the coming months to show how it’s working and could look at trying out the technology in other areas across the city.

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