March 29, 2011

Maryland MTA tests ‘talking’ buses

The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) is testing a new alert system to enhance pedestrian safety. The Safe Turn Alert system is an automated voice system that tells pedestrians, operators and passengers when a bus is turning a corner.

The automated voice warning system activates external and internal speakers when the bus operator turns the wheel. External speakers on both sides of the bus alert pedestrians that a bus is turning, while the internal message reminds operators to be aware of pedestrians.

The system operates automatically when the bus steering wheel turns by a 45-degree angle. Wheel trigger points initiate an audible message before a bus enters the crosswalk during a normal turn and prevents the message from being broadcast during a normal lane change. Outside speaker volume is automatically adjusted based on ambient noise measured by a microphone. An interior speaker is located behind the driver’s seat.
     
The MTA will use 10 buses to test Safe Turn Alert systems from two companies over the next two months. The buses will be used on various routes throughout the region. This test program will provide feedback to MTA officials as they determine the feasibility of expanding the Safe Turn Alert system. The system also is being tested or used in Cleveland, Ohio and Portland, Ore.

Bus passengers are also encouraged to comment on the new system.  Bulletins with contact information will be posted on buses using the test equipment.

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