Could Volvo’s new alert system help prevent collisions with cyclists?

Car manufacturer working with Strava and POC in development of new alert system to reduce chances of collisions between cars and cyclists

Technology to warn cyclists and drivers they’re on a collision course has been created by Volvo Cars, working with Strava, Ericsson and helmet maker POC.

The cyclists’ Strava smartphone app beams their position, speed and direction to a data centre in the cloud. The driver’s on-board satnav does the same for the car.

>> Save up to 31% with a magazine subscription. Enjoy the luxury of home delivery and never miss an issue <<

When the data centre calculates they’re heading towards a collision it triggers an alert signal on the car dashboard and in the cyclist’s helmet.

The system will be demonstrated in Las Vegas at the International Consumer Electronics Show on January 6. 

Volvo says it’s the first such technology to connect drivers and cyclists. 

Researchers in Europe and Asia have tested similar concepts before, some using radio frequency tags and roadside beacons to transmit the data to the cyclist and the driver. 

But none have gone as far as shooting a glossy video, which shows a dangerously-parked van blocking the view at a T-junction. 

If this technology is going to make roads safer for cyclists, improvements will also need to be made to get sufficiently precise location data from the bike and the car.

>>> ICGlove launches indicating cycling glove

Some Strava users say their smartphone’s GPS varies in accuracy – and riding down city roads where tall buildings block the satellite signals can only make it worse. 

The problem is the same for cars, although they can carry more sensitive GPS receivers.

It also remains to be seen whether the data feeds to and from the cloud and the cloud’s ability to crunch the numbers can be done quickly enough to send the alerts before a real-world crunch happens.

Of course, the system would only work for riders who have smartphones with the right app and have Bluetooth enabled so that it can connect with he alerting device in the helment. 

There would also need to be a critical mass of cars with the right equipment for it to have any significant effect of reducing collisions with cyclists.

It’s been said that a system to prevent dangerous parking could be far more effective at improving road safety.

Nevertheless, Klas Bendrik of Volvo Cars is bullish. “By exploring cloud-based safety systems, we are getting ever closer to eliminating the remaining blind spots between cars and cyclists and by that avoid collisions,” he says.

The word “exploring” implies this system is a long way from becoming a commercial product. It does, however, fit neatly with US and European trends to create a network of “connected vehicles” always communicating with each other and with traffic management systems.

Until it’s in place, cyclists will continue to rely on their eyes and ears at hazards such as badly parked vehicles.