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Kitsap, Wash., Buses Test Collision Avoidance Sensors

Five buses will be outfitted with Mobileye Shield+ system, which uses four sensors placed on each side of the vehicle to detect incoming traffic and avoid collisions.

by Ed Friedrich, Kitsap Sun, Bremerton, Wash. / May 11, 2016

(TNS) -- Five Kitsap, Wash., Transit buses are among the first to ever test collision-avoidance technology that could one day save lives.

They join 33 from throughout the state that have been outfitted with Mobileye Shield+ systems. Students from the University of Washington's Smart Transportation Applications and Research lab are collecting data from the systems for three months.

Four vision sensors — two in front of the buses and one on each side — detect pedestrians and cyclists and warn the driver when danger is imminent through blinking red alerts and beeps. Drivers often can't see the people because of large blind spots around the bus when it makes turns on tight, busy city streets.

The system also monitors following distance, warning bus drivers of imminent rear-end collisions, alerts them when their bus strays from its lane without a turn signal or exceeds the speed limit.

"We're interested in the potential of this technology to prevent collisions," Kitsap Transit Executive Director John Clauson said. "We are eager to see what researchers learn and how the technology performs in a real-world environment."

Unlike cars and trucks, autonomous collision avoidance and emergency braking aren't available for buses. It they were, they could save money as well as lives, experts say.

According to the National Transit Database, from 2002 to 2014, buses and van pools were involved in 85,391 collisions that injured 201,382 people and killed 1,340. The claims cost $56.7 billion.

The UW researchers will analyze data such as speed and braking and video from onboard cameras. They'll also survey drivers. A final report will be issued in mid-2017 showing how the technology performed and estimating the amount of money saved by avoiding collisions. Bus manufacturers likely won't install the technology unless transit agencies demand it, and agencies won't demand it unless they see it preventing accidents and justifying the costs.

The $225,000 pilot project was funded by a $100,000 federal grant and funds from the state Transit Insurance Pool and two insurance partners.

A handful of passenger vehicle models now come with a forward collision avoidance system as a standard feature. The National Transportation Safety Board recommended three years ago and reiterated in September that all new passenger and commercial vehicles be equipped with collision warning systems. It's also seeking to add autonomous emergency braking systems once standards have been established. Some vehicles go far beyond just alerting drivers of danger. They can actually stop themselves or guide themselves back into their lane.

©2016 the KitsapSun (Bremerton, Wash.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.