[NFBWATLK] need help crossing the street
b.butterfly at comcast.net
Tue Sep 26 15:42:50 UTC 2017
Carnegie Mellon University developing smartphone system to help blind people cross the street
Photo of Ed Blazina
eblazina at post-gazette.com <mailto:eblazina at post-gazette.com>
8:02 AM Sep 25, 2017
Through their work at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, Mary Lynne Lorch and Molly Feinberg see how blind and physically disabled children can struggle with mobility, especially crossing the street.
The traffic signals at Craig and Bayard streets near the school in Oakland have an audible signal that lets pedestrians know the light is about to change, they said, but the children they accompany often aren’t able to cross in the allotted time. That’s why the women, teachers of visually impaired/certified orientation and mobility specialists, say they are looking forward to a new device under development at Carnegie Mellon University that should help.
The university’s Robotics Institute announced last week it has received a $2 million Federal Highway Administration grant to develop a system that would allow smartphones to communicate with smart traffic signals and provide more time to people having difficulty crossing the street. The grant requires a $500,000 match, so the entire program costs $2.5 million.
Stephen Smith, a professor of robotics at the institute, said the system is being developed to work with the 50 intersections in the East Liberty area that already have the Surtrac signals. The signals use sensors to detect when vehicles are approaching intersections and adjust the lights to move traffic efficiently.
But the signals already are equipped to receive dedicated short range communications from radios that will be installed in cars over the next few years and can be used in a smartphone app to help pedestrians with disabilities, Mr. Smith said.
Early next summer, Mr. Smith said, the system should be ready for a field test using signals on Baum Boulevard and Centre Avenue near the Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. About 25 to 30 pedestrians with visual disabilities will be equipped with a sleeve for their smartphone that will transmit a radio signal that can extend a green light to provide more crossing time.
In the second year of the program, researchers expect to install additional signals near the school for blind children on North Bellefield Avenue so the system can be tried there, too.
Other possibilities to help blind and disabled people involve using the app to coordinate with transit buses to know when they arrive and pre-programming a regular route so that signals know when impaired pedestrians are coming and can adjust accordingly.
“That sounds really cool. I can see that helping lot of people, including our children who often have blindness and other disabilities,” Ms. Lorch said.
Ed Blazina: eblazina at post-gazette.com <mailto:eblazina at post-gazette.com> , 412-263-1470 or on Twitter @EdBlazina.
First Published September 25, 2017, 7:30am
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