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Collision Avoidance Systems Provide Enhanced Situational Awareness

Editor's Note: This version of the story does not include graphics that appear in the print edition. To see these graphics, click here.

Urban environments are becoming increasingly more challenging for bus drivers to navigate safely, with cyclists crowding the shared right-of-way, pedestrians distracted by technology and the ubiquitous presence of delivery trucks.

These challenging scenarios might be part of the reason why, between 2009 and 2015, the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks or buses increased by 20 percent and the number of crashes leading to injuries increased by 62 percent. In response to these disturbing statistics, and the fact that $4.1 billion was spent on casualty and liability claims between 2002 and 2011, public transit authorities are turning to collision avoidance systems to help their bus operators better see the environment around their buses and provide warnings to hopefully avoid potential accidents.

Mobileye’s Shield+™ is a collision avoidance system specifically tailored to the needs and dynamics of buses. Its vision sensors detect pedestrians and cyclists in front of the bus and in blind spots and warn the driver of their presence. Mobileye Shield+ also alerts the driver to a potential rear-end collision, unsafe following distance and unintended lane departure. When necessary, the system issues visual and audio alerts in real time.

“Designing ADAS [Advanced Driver Assistance Systems] for large municipal vehicles such as buses was not as simple as merely adapting Mobileye’s existing forward-facing collision avoidance technology for cars to fit a larger vehicle,” said Uri Tamir, senior director of strategic initiatives at Mobileye. “The different geometry of a bus, as well as the different driving dynamics and unique dangerous situations that buses encounter, had to be addressed. The design of Shield+ allowed for the larger blind spots of the bus and its greater turning radii."

Mobileye also designed the system around the different ways a bus functions. For example, in the case of the bus stop approach, a typical driver assist system alerts a driver when time to collision with a pedestrian becomes critically low, but a bus is supposed to get close to pedestrians as it pulls into a crowded bus stop. If the system alerted every time a bus approached a stop, the driver would begin to ignore the alerts. This meant that getting the correct algorithms’ calibration was essential.

Mobileye Shield+ technology comes with a fleet management system and a mapping tool of the “hot spots” on a bus route where alerts or near collisions frequently occur. This feature allows fleet managers to access an online map displaying the hot spots on transit routes based on the alert data and leverage this information for city infrastructure improvements and driver training. Since many transit systems keep their buses in rotation for 12 or more years, Shield+ is a retrofit product that can be installed on existing transit buses and motorcoaches.

A Transportation Research Board IDEA research study carried out by the Washington State Transit Insurance Pool (WSTIP) and the University of Washington, published in May 2017, explored the effect of collision avoidance technology on 38 buses in a public transit system in Washington State that had installed Shield+. The study was the first ever statewide effort to test collision avoidance systems in a wide range of urban, suburban and rural environments.

The study found that, compared with the control group, buses with the Shield+ active collision avoidance systems experienced:

* 71.55 percent fewer forward collision warnings per 1,000 miles;
* 43.32 percent fewer pedestrian and cyclist collision and blind spot warnings per 1,000 miles;
* 58.5 percent potential reduction in vehicular and pedestrian claims in dollar value; and
* No Shield+ equipped buses were involved in any collisions with bicyclists or pedestrians.

Complete findings can be found here.

Based on the positive findings of the study, Pierce Transit of Lakewood, WA, a WSTIP member, applied and won an FTA research grant to outfit its entire fleet with Mobileye Shield+ and carry out further research.

Pierce Transit is not alone in believing that new technology can help combat safety challenges on their bus routes. As of today, at least 19 public transit systems in North America have launched Shield+ pilots or programs in an effort to take a robust stance against the rising collision rate. For example, Maryland DOT’s Mass Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) is evaluating the ability of Shield+ to prevent collisions by installing the technology on five Baltimore transit buses.

According to Kevin Quinn, administrator of MDOT MTA, “The Mobileye collision avoidance system already has proven to be another forward-thinking investment to keep our passengers and bus operators safe by increasing awareness and helping to prevent collisions.”

Other large public transit systems currently using or testing Shield+ include:

* The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation: launched a cooperative statewide pilot program to procure Shield+ technology for all public transportation providers in Virginia. * Los Angeles DOT: outfitting its DASH buses with Mobileye’s Shield+.
* The Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works: installing Shield+ on 10 buses as part of a pilot program.
* Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus (BBB), a municipal bus operator in California: launched a one-year pilot program to test Shield+ on 12 buses to account for an expected increase in pedestrian/bike traffic. The system will also create “hot spot” maps that show city officials where accidents are frequently happening and allow them to make data-based decisions on bus route improvements.
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