SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — New, touch-free crosswalk devices were being installed in Santa Clara County Thursday, aimed at protecting pedestrians in this era of COVID-19.

For pedestrians used to using their finger under their shirt to press the button, or the lean-in with the hip method, or the tried-and-true elbow method, simply waving the hand in front of the control may be the new way to go.

Santa Clara County Roads and Airports engineer Ananth Prasad designed the sensors, which use existing infrared technology. They are no more expensive than the push-button controls, and swapping out the old ones takes no extra time.

The State of California fast-tracked the approval process and now the county is on track to replace all its crosswalk buttons.

“I feel good because you know it’s helping public,” said Prasad. “We are here to serve public in any way which form, and this is something that was called on us to step up and we’re happy that we delivered it.”

The county has a history of using high-tech traffic solutions. In 2010, county engineers installed microwave sensors to detect the speed of pedestrians, to give more time to slower walkers.

In 2015, they put in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi sensors to anonymously track cell phones, which in turn was used in so-called “predictive signals,” that changed the timing of the lights to reduce congestion.

In the age of coronavirus, no-hands was a no-brainer.

“Now we’ve added this new feature based on COVID-19 and the possibility that you by touching things you could spread a virus,” said county Roads and Airports Director Harry Freitas. “We have installed some of the most innovative devices in the country and other states are catching up with us.”

The contact-free devices will be located in 25 different expressway intersections in the county.

 

 

 

 

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