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Automatic braking and audible warning systems to be fitted to London buses

London’s red buses are to be equipped with new safety technology including automatic braking, audible warning systems and new mirrors as part of a trial aimed at improving safety

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan set out a ‘Vision Zero’ approach to road danger earlier this year in his draft transport strategy.

It aims for no one to be killed in or by a London bus by 2030, and for deaths and serious injuries from road collisions to be eliminated from London’s streets by 2041.

The new safety features are particularly relevant considering a number of highly publicised accidents in recent times. Earlier this month footage emerged of a jogger pushing a woman into the path of an oncoming bus in May this year, luckily she wasn’t hurt but it was a close call. Last week a double decker bus crashed into a shop near Clapham Junction injuring 10 people.

All of the new technology will be independently trialled at the Transport Research Laboratory and will include:

  • Autonomous emergency braking systems that allow the vehicle to detect its surroundings and automatically apply the brakes
  • Features to alert pedestrians and other road users of the presence of buses, such as lights or audible warnings
  • A re-design of the front of buses, which could reduce the impact of a collision
  • Changes to bus interiors to improve passenger safety, such as higher-grip flooring and softening sharp corners
  • Improvements to vision for drivers, including improved mirror design

The results of the trials will feed into a new Bus Safety Standard that will be incorporated into bus operator contracts from the end of 2018.

Transport for London has also published a report on Intelligent Speed Assistance, which will require bus operators to fit speed-limiting technology onto vehicles later this year.

“Nothing is more important to the Mayor than the safety of Londoners. We are doing our utmost to make the streets of the capital safer and these measures can potentially make big improvements to bus safety,” said London’s Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross.

Safety campaigner Sarah Hope said: “It is vital that TfL remain committed to reducing the number of collisions and incidents caused by buses in London that result in serious injury and death. I hope the new safety technology will help TfL achieve this.”

Cynthia Barlow, chair of RoadPeace, said: “RoadPeace welcomes the news that an independent contractor has been engaged to lead on the bus safety trials. Safer buses, including redesign and additional safety features, are key to delivering the Mayor’s stated aim of eliminating death and serious injury involving a bus in London by 2030. TfL’s bus safety programme is a good example of tackling danger at source.”

Last September it was announced that many of London’s buses would be electrified and the capital would ultimately have the largest electrified fleet in Europe. 

Soon after, Khan unveiled the world’s first hydrogen fuel-cell double decker bus and said that the city will completely cease procuring pure diesel double-deckers and polluting single-decks for central London from 2018. 

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