NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

A new traffic technology can warn motorists quickly of rapidly approaching emergency vehicles and trains. The Emergency Vehicle Early Warning Safety System, or E-ViEWS, developed with the assistance of the Technology Affiliates Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, is particularly timely given the increasing incidence of police chases.

The system equips emergency vehicles with transponders that communicate via microwave with receivers on large visual displays deployed on the mastarms above the centers of intersections. As the vehicles approach the intersections, signal lights turn yellow, then red, for cross-traffic, and approaching drivers also view flashing vehicle symbols on the visual displays.

These active displays, linked to the receivers, inform drivers of the direction from which emergency traffic is approaching or departing the intersection. The vehicle symbols appear to move across the displays, synchronized with the actual emergency vehicles' movements.

"More than 156,000 accidents involving emergency vehicles occurred at intersections in U.S. cities from the mid-1980s to 1995 alone," explained Jim Davidson, president and CEO of E-Lite Limited of Agoura Hills, CA, which developed the system.

"Emergency vehicles present a serious traffic hazard to themselves, other vehicles and pedestrians while passing against cross traffic through an intersection, causing multi-million dollar lawsuits against cities and states," he added.

Davidson, a former marketing executive, has first-hand experience with the dangers of high-speed vehicles: He was driving his car once when it was almost broadsided by a fire truck at a Los Angeles intersection.

Through the Technology Affiliates Program, large and small businesses can work with JPL engineers to solve specific tasks. Upon joining this innovative program, E-Lite was paired with JPL engineers with specialized expertise to solve engineering design issues. These included not only E-ViEWS' customized transponders, but also comprehensive designs which blend with existing city communications infrastructures. E-ViEWS is now being further refined with an eye toward installation of demonstration models in large metropolitan areas.

The Technology Affiliates Program is just one of several JPL technology transfer programs designed to bring the benefits of the space program to American industry. For further information, visit the Commercial Technology Program's Web site at

JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology.

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