In an effort to improve road safety, a pilot in East Austin is underway to alert vehicles when a pedestrian is about to cross the street. The program, monitored by the Austin Transportation Department, is at two crossings on Rosewood Avenue: Angelina Street and Navasota Street.

When a pedestrian pushes the signal at one of the crossings, it alerts oncoming drivers that have vehicles connected to wireless networks, or connected vehicles, that someone is trying to cross. It also provides an alert if the driver is about to run a red light.

“Distracted driving is one of the main causes of accidents, and so any additional warnings that drivers can get of something that's occurring in front of them, the more likelihood of them intervening and doing something,” said Joseph McKenzie, a project manager with the transportation department’s Smart Mobility Office.

In addition to displaying messages for connected vehicles, the crosswalks also have rapid flashing lights that will go off when the pedestrian pushes the crossing button.

The effort represents a step toward a future when drivers would have access to significantly more information, McKenzie said. For example, a driver might be able to see a countdown showing how many seconds until a light turns green or if a driver is going the wrong direction, something already available on SH 45 SW.

“What we need to do as a city is to understand how this technology works and start getting prepared and plan out the effort to take advantage of the safety application,” McKenzie said.

The technology for the project runs on solar power and is provided by TAPCO and Siemens. The two companies cover the project cost, while the transportation department monitors the right of way during the pilot, according to a city spokesperson.