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Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection Devices for Transit Buses


Data are limited about the full extent of bicycle and pedestrian use, but the evidence indicates that the use of these modes is on the rise. Data from the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) from 2001 and 2009, a period during which bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities was decreasing, identified a slight increase in walking, and almost no change in the number of people bicycling. Although NHTS data are not available for the period in which fatalities have increased, other sources indicate walking and biking use have been on the rise in these years.

Pedestrians represent a considerable portion of traffic-related (cars, trucks and transit) injuries and deaths on our nation’s highways. In 2008, 4,378 pedestrians were killed and 69,000 were injured in traffic crashes in the United States; this represents 12% and 3%, respectively, of all the traffic fatalities and injuries. The majority of these fatalities occurred in urban areas (72%) where pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicular traffic, including transit buses, tend to co-mingle. Although, the pedestrian injuries and fatalities are few in number relative to other collision types, bus collisions involving pedestrians and cyclists usually carry very high cost (injury claims), attract negative media attention, and have the potential to create a negative public perception of transit safety.

The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Report 125: Guidebook for Mitigating Fixed-Route Bus-and-Pedestrian Collisions ( indicated that of all the collision types involving buses and pedestrians, turns at intersections was the problem most frequently reported by transit agencies. Of the incident reports reviewed, data show that 60% occurred while buses were turning (left-turn collisions were more common than right-turn collisions: 69% involved a left turn, while 31% involved a right turn). The other two common collision types were buses pulling into bus stops (15%) and buses pulling away from stops (10%).

In recent years, sensors have been developed to detect the presence of pedestrians and presence of bicycles in the path of a transit vehicle. With the development of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) applications, automated pedestrian detectors are beginning to complement the existing detectors. These applications optimize intersection operations and improve safety by reducing the conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians. However, there is limited understanding of the most effective technologies for automated detection, partly because of the great variety of technologies that are available, such as infrared, radar, microwave, heat sensors, pressure mats, and computer-assisted video. There are significant concerns about the reliability and questions about the maintenance requirements, liability exposure, and accessibility requirements of such devices. In the last five years, the private car industry has been increasingly using the crash avoidance technologies to prevent or mitigate crashes with pedestrians and bicyclists. Approaches that hold promises are radar, laser and camera-based vision systems which are designed to spot pedestrians and bicyclists entering a vehicle's path and either warn the driver or automatically apply the vehicle’s brake if the driver fails to react fast enough.

For this SBIR solicitation, FTA is seeking exploratory proposals that will demonstrate innovative, economically-viable, accurate, and durable technologies or devices to significantly improve the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists in a transit environment. The primary goal of this project is to design and develop detection technologies or devices that use sensors technologies in detection of bicycles and pedestrians by leveraging innovations and developments that have occurred in commercial/passenger vehicle applications. The proposer must clearly define the uniqueness of the stand-alone system and the associated pedestrian/cyclist detection technologies and how the system would be integrated into existing transit buses for the following collision scenarios and mitigation - 1) at the street intersection in which the system is designed to mitigate and prevent (left turn, right turn, etc.), 2) at the bus stop while it is pulling in and out of transit stops, and 3) other scenarios in which the bus might strike pedestrians or cyclists.

The project must identify and characterize the effectiveness of the proposed system in a bus and how the system would:

  1. detect pedestrians and cyclists under different collision scenarios
  2. prevent or mitigate the severity of crashes (ex. warning to bus operator or warning to bus operator/ automatic braking)
  3. consider the human factor applications in terms of bus operator workload. Project proposals must include a methodology on how the small business will use data to quantitatively demonstrate that its innovative technology can truly improve transit system and its safety.


Expected Phase I Outcomes

  1. A viable proof-of-concept that demonstrates the potential for a technology or device in a transit environment to improve safety of pedestrian and cyclist. The proof-of concept must consider the following factors:

  • Efficient and low-cost technology
  • Modular, interoperable, plug-and-play and open source (if applicable) device(s)
  • Technology assessment with respect to industry best practices

  2. Feasibility analysis (data proven) for success in developing a working prototype.


Expected Phase II Outcomes

Phase II efforts include demonstrating, manufacturing and showing feasibility of commercialization of a working prototype of the technology and device with all of the above listed Phase I outcomes.

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