3′ Passing Law Detector Prototype
ID: 2012-0003 [2011-0006]
Start Date: 2012-01-01
End Date: 2012-12-31
What originally started as the 3′ Passing Law grew into the Vulnerable Users Law to mandate safe passing distances when motorized vehicles pass pedestrians, road workers, bicycles, and even people on horseback. Bicycles remained a key component of the law and 3 feet has been designated the safe distance for a vehicle to pass an individual on a bike.
Few citations have been written for cars passing within this 3′ boundary, if for no other reason than it is very easy to tell if a car is within 6″ of a rider, but much more difficult to visually to determine if the gap is at 2′ vs 3′ in the few seconds it can take a car to complete a pass. Combine this with a lack of instrumentation to provide an accurate record of the event (such as a radar gun) other than pure video, officers may have insufficient tools at their disposal to demonstrate a clear violation of the law in many cases.
There is also little concrete data on the passing habits of Austin drivers in a variety of situations based on time of day, traffic congestion, rider speed, road position, and gender in addition to specific roads in a various of areas of town. The final goal of this project is to partner with a group at the University of Texas at Austin and produce statistical data (and possibly a published paper) related to car and bicycle position and behavior during vehicles passing on select roads within the Greater Austin Area. We may also look to provide similar hardware to police, for testing purposes, to determine if it would complement heir current array of data collection tools used for enforcement.
Currently we are beginning live trials to determine the system’s overall capabilities and limitations leading to true data collection. The timeline to data collection will be dictated by the equipment’s ability to accurately register passing vehicles of various sizes at predetermined speed differentials (bicycle velocity, vehicle velocity, velocity difference). These trials will also determine optimal camera orientation for the capture of all required data points, such as road design and installed facilities, weather and visibility conditions, rider in-lane position and behavior, motorized vehicle distance during pass, make, model, license plate, and post pass behavior.
Once the equipment passes the required use tests, the sensor boom will be modified so that it may be adjusted, rather than being static, to match the outside edge of the handlebar or riders shoulder, whichever is further from the mid-line of the bicycle. The current design is a prototype and is not shielded for wet weather use (exposed distance sensor with associated circuit board) which would require modifications to collect data in those conditions. The main components of the system are an HD camera with a wide angle lens, a light-weight front bike rack, and a custom designed and fabricated high contrast display (displays inches) coupled with a distance sensor utilizing ultrasound.