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VIA testing new sensor system on buses to reduce pedestrian deaths

VIA Metropolitan Transit (Photo: Sinclair Broadcast Group / File)

Millions of your tax dollars are going to improve San Antonio streets as the city tries to reduce the number of pedestrian deaths. Now a new safety system being tested on VIA buses and News 4 Trouble Shooter Jaie Avila was given an exclusive look.

It's been two years since our investigation into pedestrians killed or injured by VIA buses. 2016 was an unusually deadly year for pedestrians: 65 fatalities. Than included an elderly woman trying to catch a VIA bus tragically killed when the driver did not see her in his blind spot.

Large blind spots on the sides of buses sometimes make it difficult to see the elderly and disabled.

VIA bus cameras captured another danger zone: at the front of the bus, when pedestrians dart into the road at intersections. Sometimes drivers can be so focused on making the turn, they don't see them.

After our investigation VIA told us it was looking into new sensor technology to help warn drivers if a pedestrian is getting close to their bus.

Now a pilot project has begun testing a special pedestrian avoidance system on ten VIA buses.

The new system warns the driver with yellow lights near the windshield if people are standing too close to the bus. And if someone steps out in front of the bus a red light goes on, and an audible alarm goes off, to alert the driver, even if the person is several car lengths in front.

VIA says it's similar, but more advanced, than pedestrian detection systems offered on cars. It can tell the difference between a person and a stationary object like a utility pole.

“It can discern what's moving and what is not. That includes persons with disabilities who might be using a wheel chair versus a scooter, a pedestrian, a bicycle, someone on a skateboard," said Tremell Brown, VIA’s Vice President of Safety.

VIA has so far spent $8,000 to pay for the pilot project which will run for six months. Then it will decide whether to purchase the system for all its buses.

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