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Vulnerable road users (VRUs) will soon have a way to notify fellow road users that they are approaching in real-time. Jarrett Wendt, Chief Executive Officer of Spoke, talks to Auto Future. He reveals how the company plans to bring cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) safety to bicycle makers, e-scooters, motorcycles, and other road users in the future.

The increase in cyclist death is horrific. Bicycle fatalities increased 37% in the last ten years, says Wendt.

The dangers of bicycle riding are close to Wendt. He is a cyclist himself. Wendt’s father survived a collision with a truck while bicycling this summer.

Spoke is developing different devices compatible with bike computers and sold through bicycle OEMs. Traditionally the C-V2X device in a car or truck is 2.5 x 2.5 feet (76.2 cm x 76.2 cm), says Wendt. The size is too big for bicycles.

Spoke has designed V-C2X units for bicycles, smaller than iPhone 12 for the first incarnation. Then a C-V2X device that comes out in 2024 will be cylindrical with a 22 mm diameter that can fit in the seat post or the frames of bicycles. The length depends upon the battery size, says Wendt.

“We are going to change safety with a whole new set of features. We are going to visualize safety and put it into focus. It is a sea change in the world of safety offering visualization for bicyclists,” he explains.

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Creating A Transportation Ecosystem

The safety visualizations are based on SAE’s J2735 message protocol for vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communication.

Cell phone signals not accurate enough. There is too much latency. The GNS location is not good enough and can make mistakes, says Wendt.

Spoke devices will have special V2X antennas that provide precise locations and communicate ten times a second to surrounding vehicles. Cellular signals can have a two to three-second delay, he says.

The third part of the Spoke safety is rear-facing cameras for safely notifying when cars are within 80 meters of the bicycle.

The display, connected hardware, cameras and lights form a complete transportation ecosystem putting bicyclists, motorcyclists and other light mobility users on the map.

Spoke is working with major bike OEMs to work with their computers and to develop visuals for the software. Spoke is partnering with Qualcomm Technologies and AWS by Amazon.

In September, Spoke reported that AWS will work as a global data repository for the VRU data.

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“There is nothing more powerful than seeing vehicle to bike communication working.”

Spoke chose to work directly with bicycle OEMs because aftermarket devices do not sell well, even if they are inexpensive. Wendt noted that before safety belts were required, they were inexpensive, around $15 each. Seat belts did not become commonplace until safety regulators mandated them. He hopes that safety regulations eventually will include Vulnerable Road User to Everything (VRU2X).

“We’re unlocking safety features that the end-user doesn’t know about yet,” says Wendt.

Spoke devices will work on pedal bicycles, e-bikes, e-scooters and motorcycles.

“Spoke’s portfolio runs both on the 5.9GHz and LTE/5G. It is part of the unique amalgamation that allows us to ‘communicate’ with as many vehicles as possible,” says Wendt.

In 2022 Spoke will be testing the user interface on the road at testing centres Mcity, Peachtree and urban environments. Spoke will first be available on high-end bicycles in the price range of $1500.

“We expect that there will be economies of scale later on. It will bring the price down for other kinds of vehicles in the future and for pedestrians,” he says.

Spoke works with Audi V2X systems. The kinds of safety features that Audi has such as time to traffic light change and traffic like signal phases will also be coming to Spoke-enabled bicycles. VRU2X augments blind spot awareness. The data coming from Spoke users could benefit Smart City infrastructure to know more about where bike lanes should go, signal timing and other safety features, says Wendt.

He concludes: “We’ll see the first models in the real world in 2022. There is nothing more powerful than seeing vehicle to bike communication working. It’s magical to see it work when the bicycle is transmitting signals ten times a second and the car is aware of it. To know it’s real stuff – it’s magical.”

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