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Pierce Transit receives $1.66 million grant to install bus safety technology

The Federal Transportation Administration has announced it has awarded Pierce Transit $1.66 million to install collision-avoidance technology and emergency braking technology on its buses as part of a Collision Avoidance and Mitigation Safety Research and Demonstration Project. The funding will expand research already underway between Pierce Transit and its insurance and research partners, and potentially generate off-the-shelf technology that could save lives and reduce injuries nationwide.

In 2016 Pierce Transit participated in a pilot project to test Mobileye collision-avoidance technology on seven of its buses. A collision-avoidance warning system (CAWS) helps prevent vehicle-to-pedestrian accidents by alerting the bus operator that a collision may be imminent. An intelligent vision sensor works like a bionic eye, identifying an extensive variety of potential hazards on the road and giving the driver visual and audible alerts when pedestrians and cyclists are in the danger zones near the bus or when a rear-end collision is imminent, allowing the operator to take corrective action. Test results were promising, showing an increase in speed compliance and following distance, and fewer pedestrian collision warnings on buses using the system than with the control group, which was monitoring potential collisions and speed but not alerting operators. Pierce Transit and its partners, including the Washington State Transit Insurance Pool (WSTIP), received a METRO Magazine “Innovative Solutions Award” for the CAWS pilot project.

With the new grant funding Pierce Transit will equip all of its 176 buses with Generation 2 Shield+ collision avoidance warning systems and 30 buses with a Pedestrian Avoidance Safety System (PASS), an emergency braking technology that works in conjunction with the collision avoidance system and automatically decelerates the vehicle when an imminent pedestrian or vehicle collision is detected. Pierce Transit has committed nearly $500,000 in matching funds to the project, WSTIP and reinsurer Munich Reinsurance America are each contributing $100,000, and there are some in-kind contributions for a total project cost of $2.9 million. Pierce Transit expects to receive the federal funds by mid-2017, have most of the technology installed on buses by the end of the year and conduct the research in late 2017 and throughout 2018.

Working with other partners, including the University of Washington, Pierce Transit will take part in a year of testing, data collection, analysis and evaluations of both the collision avoidance and emergency braking systems over an estimated 4.4 million miles of service. Pilot project results will be used to determine the business case for transit agencies and perhaps school districts in Washington and across the U.S. to invest in collision avoidance and emergency braking technology. The National Transportation Safety Board found that trucks equipped with collision avoidance systems, autonomous emergency braking and electronic stability control reduced collisions by 71 percent.

“I am pleased that Pierce Transit will have the opportunity to lead the way in pursuing safe practices in the transit industry,” said Pierce Transit CEO Sue Dreier. “Our deployment of these safety systems will provide critical information to advance the development of these lifesaving technologies.”

U.S. Senator Patty Murray was one of several federal lawmakers to sign a letter of support for Pierce Transit’s grant application. 

“Pierce Transit is an excellent model for transit agencies seeking innovative solutions to improving safety,” said Sen. Murray. “The agency has demonstrated a strong commitment to saving lives and reducing injuries on the road, and this investment will support continued collaboration on their groundbreaking technology and developing new tools for accident prevention.”

Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners Chair Kent Keel was pleased with the agency’s opportunity to influence transportation safety, potentially nationwide.

“It says very good things about Pierce Transit and the larger team that the federal government, by virtue of awarding these funds, has shown confidence in the team’s ability to conduct this important research,” said Keel. “Not only is this an important step forward in safely serving Pierce Transit’s customers and the public at large, it may also contribute to safer communities across the nation. Congratulations to Pierce Transit for being selected to help lead this important work.”

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