James and Lancman Push for Driver Alert Tech on City Vehicles

A new City Council bill would require crash avoidance technology on at least 100 city-owned vehicles that alerts drivers before a collision occurs, and potentially applies brakes to prevent a crash.

The legislation, sponsored by Public Advocate Letitia James and Council Member Rory Lancman, would require a one-year pilot program on 100 vehicles in the city’s 28,000-car fleet, followed by a study on its cost and effectiveness at reducing crashes.

The technology includes cameras for improved driver visibility or warnings to drivers of pedestrians or cyclists in their blind spots. It can also alert drivers and apply emergency braking in advance of potential rear-end collisions, which comprise almost one in three crashes in the city fleet that result in injury.

There are 85,000 government employees with access to city-owned vehicles. Last year, non-NYPD drivers were involved in 5,805 collisions resulting in 584 injuries, including 49 crashes that injured pedestrians and 15 that injured bicyclists.

“Everyday New Yorkers are still at too high a risk of being killed or seriously injured by a motor vehicle,” James said in a press release. “Every year, there are thousands of collisions involving City drivers that end up costing lives and millions of dollars. We must examine every possible avenue to reduce crashes, which is why we must examine and test collision avoidance technology that could help save lives and taxpayer money.”

During fiscal years 2007 through 2014, there were 1,213 pedestrian personal injury claims filed against the city, according to Comptroller Scott Stringer. Taxpayers shelled out $88,134,915 during that period for pedestrian injury cases.

On Wednesday, James and Lancman demonstrated the collision avoidance systems with representatives from Mobileye and Rosco Vision Systems, which manufacture the technology. It costs up to $1,500 for most cars and up to $10,000 for large vehicles like buses, according to the Daily News. The city is already testing out the technology on 10 trucks and vans in fleets serving five agencies.

In addition to city-owned vehicles, other fleets are experimenting with similar technology.

In April, the Taxi and Limousine Commission launched its own one-year pilot of data recorder and driver alert technology. As of June, a total of 10 taxis and for-hire vehicles have had technology installed from three participating vendors: IonFleets, Datatrack247 and Mobileye [PDF].

The MTA is also examining the installation of driver alert and crash avoidance technology on its buses, as well as external audible alarms to warn pedestrians that a bus is nearby. “We’ll have more to say in the coming weeks,” said MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz.

The technology is strongly backed by the union representing bus drivers. “TWU has urged the MTA to deploy accident-prevention technology, including pedestrian warning alerts, and will continue to do so,” TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen said in a statement. “We can all agree that common-sense safety upgrades, including the elimination of bus operator blind spots, are long overdue.”