2020 was a great boom for bicycles but also sadly a dangerous one for all users. Companies are working on standards and ways to inform drivers of the vulnerable riders through running lights and wireless communications.
The publication ‘Outside’ is chronicling bike-related deaths as part of #2020CyclingDeaths
project. 2020 had record numbers of cyclist fatalities with horrific incidents such as a box truck ploughing through a group of cyclists, killing five of them.
Auto Futures looks at how technology can help keep cyclists safer.
RiDAR to the Rescue
One way for two-wheeled vehicles to communicate to vehicles is through smartphones.
Brent Massey, Co-founder and CEO RiDAR, road bikes for years then started riding motorcycles about 10 years ago. He realized how dangerous cyclists are on the road and how often they are injured.
“It’s not a matter of when a cyclist will be injured but when,” says Massey.
There are many safety issues with two-wheel vehicles, says Massey. One problem is the driver’s line of sight.
“Drivers are looking for other vehicles. There are also low visibility and blind spots problems with drivers,” he says.
“The name ‘RiDAR’ comes from a phrase used in motorcycle training. Riders are told to be their own radar. It’s a combination of rider and radar in the name. RiDAR uses a plurality of monitoring vectors from a smartphone with locations to communicate between the driver and the rider information in a basic safety message,” says Massey.
He calls RiDAR ‘the glasses that allow vehicles to see around the cars’.
Currently, the RiDAR system uses 4G and the cloud through algorithms that enable real-time notifications to vehicles of cyclists. RiDAR uses the smartphone’s gyroscope GPS and can be aware of hard braking and other information.
“We are also looking at 5G which will enable even faster notifications,” says Massey.
RiDAR addresses technology available today. It could also be used for micro-mobility. Recently RiDAR announced a partnership with HERE Technologies for mapping.
It is just a matter of getting together at SDK to be able to connect the RiDAR to automotive systems for audio or vehicle to show notifications in a HUD or audio, says Massey.
There are RiDAR apps available for evaluation. Massey is also talking to companies that make insurance driver monitoring/discount apps to incorporate the technology into the apps.
Shining a Light On Safety Research and Communications
Research shows that safety is a reason why more people do not ride bicycles for transportation, says Eric Bjorling, brand marketing director at Trek Bicycle.
Bjorling says the world is experiencing a bike boom as more people are riding bicycles today than at any time in world history.
“Safety is our number one priority. We wanted to learn how to help mitigate crash statistics. One of the things we found that prevents bike crashes from the rear-end are day running lights. It makes a big difference,” says Bjorling.
A flashing, daylight-visible rear light can make a cyclist up to 240% more noticeable than a rider using no lights at all.
A popular light from Trek is the USB chargeable Bontrager Flare RT Rear Bike Light. The Bontrager light works with compatible bike computers and Trek accessories that can be seen up to 2km away.
“We realized the need for the meeting of two elements: communication from bicycle to vehicle and bringing the information together,” says Bjorling.
Trek is part of a consortium for Bicycle-to-Vehicle B2V research and standards. The group includes members from Bosch, Ford Motor Company, Hammerhead, Shimano, Specialized, SRAM, Tome Software, and Trek Bicycle. The B2V Advisory Board consists of representatives from Alta Cycling Group, Bosch, Dorel Sports, Ford, Garmin, Giant Bicycles, GM, Lear, Nordic Semiconductor, Orbea, Panasonic, QBP, Shimano and Uber.
The group tested adding wireless communication to Bontrager lights for research.
“Currently, we are in the research phase,” says Jake Sigal, Founder and Chief Executive of Tome Software.
“We want to continue on the path creating industry standards and basic messages for
consumer electronics, bicycles, e-bikes and mobility,” says Sigal.
The users of these kinds of mobility are referred to as Vulnerable Road Users (VRU).
Sigal describes B2V as sending cyclist dynamics and information to available vehicles.
The group aims to create a Basic Safety Message (BSM) and Personal Safety Message (PSM). A PSM is used to broadcast safety data regarding the kinematic state of various types of vulnerable road users (VRUs), such as pedestrians, cyclists or road workers.
B2V for AEB Too
Separate research in Europe from Bosch, Shimano and TNO tested the efficacy of real-time
communication. In the simulation study, accident scenarios, vehicle sensors, AEB logic, vehicle dynamics and communication were combined.
The study found bicycle-to-car real-time signals can seriously reduce the number of accidents resulting in injuries or even death of cyclists. It can improve the autonomous emergency braking system (AEB) of a car.
Support for B2V
There is strong support for B2V communication and standards from the organization
PeopleForBikes Coalition. The group represents nearly 300 bicycle businesses, more than 7,000 retailers and 1.4 million individuals.
“B2V technology can help fill important safety gaps and make our roads safer for all users,” says PeopleForBikes’ President and CEO, Jenn Dice.
“The Biden administration and 117th Congress must take every approach to reduce bicycle and pedestrian injuries and fatalities on U.S. roadways. It includes investing in protected, connected active transportation infrastructure and B2V technology that keeps people safe while riding bikes alongside cars,” she adds.
PeopleForBikes supports efforts by the Department of Transportation to develop minimum
performance standards for connected vehicle technology, VRU-to vehicle and vehicle-to- pedestrian research. The standard will include vulnerable road users in the safe deployment of connected vehicle systems.
Communication should be between all forms of micro-mobility and transportation.
Another barrier to bike riding is powering the multiple rechargeable devices that cyclists carry with them. College students were asked why they don’t bike more. Along with safety, one of their major concerns was low device batteries.
“Battery anxiety is a huge issue. Your phone is your life, it keeps you connected,” says Adam Hokin, CEO of PedalCell. He says cyclists need to recharge lights, GPS and safety devices such as bicycle dash cams and computers.
PedalCell uses a supercapacitor. Supercapacitors are more efficient, safe and have a 200X
outdoor lifespan compared to lithium-ion batteries. The weatherproof kinetic energy gathering device is mounted on the wheel of the bicycle.
PedalCell patented CadenceX Technology delivers USB charge at varying ride speeds through optimized proprietary firmware. When riding with the PedalCell engaged the rider does not feel drag or friction, says Hokin.
When more people rely on bicycles for transportation, the need for power for phones, safety and communication will increase, says Hokin. Often there are no electrical outlets or enough time to charge all the devices when cyclists stop.
E-Beacons for Downhill and Uphill Safety
“Everyone who thought getting a bike was a great idea until they couldn’t get up the hill. They are riding e-bikes and e-scooters. Therefore, communication should be between all forms of micro-mobility and transportation,” says Marty Ellingsworth, Senior Analyst, Celent.
“Most people have a smartphone and shared mobility devices have wireless connections making it easier to share locations with other moving objects. Sharing locations is a great way to prevent accidents because e-beacons don’t have blind spots,” comments Ellingsworth.