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UW researchers install the traffic sensor system on the Burke-Gilman Trail. (UW Photo)

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a communications system between pedestrians and drivers in the hopes of preventing accidents. They are starting to test the technology this month on Seattle’s Burke-Gilman Trail in Lake Forest Park.

Researchers are installing three solar-powered devices, called Smart Road Stickers, that connect drivers with pedestrians and bikers at the intersection, a part of the heavily-trafficked trail that intersects with roadways.

If both parties have the STAR Detection App installed, they can receive notifications warning that they might be headed for a crash. The alerts can also be relayed through built-in navigation systems in newer cars. An algorithm developed by the UW team calculates the proximity and behavior of vehicles and determines whether there is a risk of collision.

“The system will let drivers know if they should stop or if it’s safe to go ahead,” said Ziqiang Zeng, one of the graduate students working on the project, in a UW blog post.

Here’s a bit more on how the system works from the University of Washington:

To identify unsafe conditions and determine appropriate safety responses, a crash prediction algorithm was developed. The algorithm calculates if there will be a conflict between non-motorized roadway users and vehicles using information gathered from onboard units in vehicles, such as location, speed and direction of travel. The algorithm identifies the location of pedestrians and other non-motorized roadway users through the app. Sensors embedded in the SRS device also gather information from nearby infrastructure, such as when traffic lights turn red and green.

To factor in response time for both drivers and non-motorized users, the algorithm calculates a safety threshold for critical situations, keeping a safe distance between vehicles and pedestrians. Once the algorithm estimates the collision risk, there is a reasonable window of time to warn both pedestrians and drivers to take appropriate action.

The system is prepared to respond to various scenarios, one of which is when a pedestrian crosses the road and a driver violates the critical safety distance. Warning messages would be sent to both the driver and the pedestrian. The driver would be asked to brake and yield to the pedestrian, while the pedestrian would be urged to take proper actions in case the driver does not respond to the warnings. In another scenario, if a pedestrian is walking on a sidewalk with an upcoming hazardous situation, a warning message would be sent to the pedestrian asking them to stop walking until the situation is resolved.

You can read more about the project here.


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