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NYC tests thermal cameras, motion sensors to decrease subway deaths

Covered by the New York Daily News earlier today, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is starting a test phase of advanced early detection technology that will alert subway conductors if someone has fallen onto the tracks. For example, a laser grid will cover the entire track system in front of a subway platform and will trigger an alert if the laser field is broken prior to the next train arriving in the station.

The MTA will also be testing three other systems that include closed-circuit television cameras with software to detect people on the tracks, thermal imaging cameras that can detect heat signatures on the track and radio waves that are transmitted across the top of the track as a backup for the laser grid system. Video feeds from those camera systems would be fed into the central control center for the subway system.


When any of these systems are triggered, the conductors of any subway train traveling into the station will be automatically alerted and will know to slow down as the train approaches the person that’s fallen onto the track. MTA representatives haven’t specified where these systems will be deployed in New York City, but all systems will be tested thoroughly for accuracy at a single station first. This study could provide a basis for a proposal that would install early detection systems as the busiest subway platforms in New York City.

Regarding current subway safety in New York City, 144 passengers have been hit by a subway car during 2013 and 52 of those passengers died. During the previous year, 141 people were hit and 55 died as a result of injuries sustained from a speeding subway car. Since 2001, over 600 people have been killed by subway cars in NYC.

However, the MTA did not specify how many of these deaths were classified as suicides by the NYPD. According to New York Daily News, approximately one third of all subways related deaths in New York City are attributed to people committing suicide.