Drivers operating city buses have a tough job ensuring the safety of people on the vehicle as well as those outside it. But technology technology is stepping up to overcome the limitations of rear view mirrors, especially concerning children. A new system being tested in Spain is designed to improve bus safety by issuing a warning when a potential risk to pedestrians is detected so the driver can react accordingly, or bringing the bus to a stop if they don't.
The system being developed by researchers at the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) in conjunction with Spanish company Cognitive Robots, combines video image capturing technology and software that analyzes the images and issues warnings to the driver.
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The cameras are strategically placed around the bus to offer a complete view of the area around the bus, including blind spots. The images are fed back to the driver through a screen placed next to the steering wheel. With audio or visual signals, it makes the driver aware of potential risks even when he or she is not looking at the screen.
That's one aspect of the system. The other is a mechanism that interacts with the accelerator and steering wheel when potential risks are detected. Initially, it will only warn the driver and slightly affect the accelerator or wheel. If for some reason the driver does not take action, it will activate an emergency lock, causing the bus to come to a halt locking the steering wheel, a function that was successfully tested in a controlled environment.
The software was validated with thousands of images taken in the city of Valencia in areas of intense pedestrian traffic including including train stations, schools and around UPV.
"We used a total of 12,000 samples of people seen from a vertical position, the same view than the bus cameras have. This big image bank is what allows the system to identify and detect the presence of a person in front of the bus, warn the driver and, if necessary, take direct action on the vehicle," said Leopoldo Armesto, researcher at UPV's Institute of Design and Manufacturing.
The system is being developed as part of the SAFEBUS project funded by Spain's Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and the European Union. The tests were run on city buses from Spanish bus builders Castrosua S.A. and the system is being implemented in buses operated by Autobuses Furió S.L.