The first touch-less, pedestrian activation devices in the county are in Los Osos.

The three busiest intersections in Los Osos have new technology aimed at helping pedestrians cross the road in a way that will increase sanitation and reduces maintenance costs.

Touch-less pedestrian activation buttons were installed at South Bay Boulevard, 9th St. and 10th St. along Los Osos Valley Road — the first in the county. San Luis Obispo County Public Works installed the buttons last month.

The device, called “i-Detect” made by Polara, allows people to wave a hand in front of the device and cross the street without having to physically push a button.

“It has the speech functions that tell you to wait or walk, or don’t walk, but rather than actually pressing the button it uses infrared technology,” SLO County Public Works Deputy Director John Waddell said. “When your hand is within a few inches of the button, it detects it. So there’s, still a button there to push, but pushing the button doesn’t do anything; it’s just having your hand close to the button.”

To help those with visual impairments, the buttons also feature a constant beeping sound to help locate the sensors to the crosswalk.

In a pandemic world, a benefit of the contactless feature of the technology is that it does offer some sanitation protection, however, the county is looking at the savings connected to lower maintenance costs.

“A lot of times you see people are waiting there patiently on the corners hitting the buttons again and again and again or people kick it with their foot, and all that abuse can damage the button,” Waddell said.

Most readers probably know someone who repeatedly pushes the crosswalk button thinking it will change the light from red to green faster. Those eager folks might be inclined to wave their hand feverishly in front of the device, both are an exercise in futility — the outcome doesn’t change.

“You only need to push the button [or wave] once,” Waddell said. “Pushing it more often does not make it change faster. Once it’s pushed, it registers the call, but the signal will go through its cycle however long it wants to make you wait depending on the conditions. Pushing it more often is not helping.”

The i-Detect equipment costs $3000 to $5000 per intersection based on the number of controllers and the required wiring needed.
Los Osos is the testing area for the devices. If they prove successful, already damaged crosswalk buttons in the county would be replaced with the new technology.

“We like them,” Waddell said. “They seem to be functioning well and it’s cost effective to use these in other locations especially high use locations. Between sanitation, and the maintenance side of being getting worn out from overuse, I can see these being a good fit for a really high use intersection.”