New technology promises safer cycling

DANA POINT, Calif. (BRAIN) — New security frontiers are opening up in the world of technology. Bike-sensing cars, bike-sensing bikes, once little more than a pipe dream, are fast becoming a reality. One solution to be launched soon is Spoke, previewed at the Bicycle Leadership Conference.

Cyclists and the bike industry are hungry for safety technology. Junko Yoshida is the editor of the Ojo-Yoshida Report and a globally recognized expert in sensing and autonomous driving technologies. “There is a wave of global interest in this advanced sensing technology,” Yoshida said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in late 2020 and sought public comment on the issue of automated driving system safety principles.

Yoshida was monitoring all comments received by NHTSA.

“I was shocked to learn that the bike industry was by far the most active in submitting comments,” she said. “It’s clear to me that cyclists have more of a stake in deploying this technology than any other user group.”

Spoke’s technology offering is a bike-mounted sensing unit the size and price of a Garmin headunit and a downloadable or factory-installable software suite for cars with recent technologies such as cluster displays gauges.

While Spoke’s automotive partner Audi was present at the BLC demonstrations, other manufacturers can easily add the sensing technology during manufacture or as a downloadable upgrade after purchase.

Reid Sigety is the COO of Denver-based Spoke USA. Spoke also has a European presence in Turin, Italy. “Over the past 10 years, the safety of vehicle occupants has improved considerably. Over the same period, we saw a 37% increase in bicycle-vehicle collisions,” Sigety said.

“For those of us who like to ride, the data is unfortunately going in the wrong direction and something had to be done,” Sigety said. “The good news is that automakers are starting to release technology as standard equipment that provides direct chip-to-chip communication between vehicles. We knew applying this to a bike would give cyclists and other riders vulnerable from the road the same advantage of seeing and being seen.

While the official launch and product and software availability are still weeks away, Spoke has a solid foundation. “Spoke is self-funded to date and has invested over $11 million over three years in system development leveraging our partners who have invested hundreds of millions to bring C-V2X and LTE/ 4G/5G in the state of implementation,” Sigety said. “Spoke will soon be announcing our corporate investors and venture capital partners representing automotive, cycling and motorsport.”

Spoke is launching with bike OEMs where systems would be attached to bikes like a computer or spare light for the 2024 model year and integrated into components like stems for 2025.

“A typical high-end bike computer costs $400. Similarly, the Spoke Vision would likely be something a bicycle OEM would sell in the same price range,” Sigety noted. “An unconnected bike radar light is $200 and we would expect an OEM to sell our Spoke CV2X Connected Light in the same price range.”

Regarding the OEM partnership with Spoke, several discussions are ongoing with the NDAs involved. Alta Cycling is one of the brands working with Spoke to make the technology available to their Diamondback bike buyers.

“People are afraid of being hit by cars,” said Kurt Hall, senior design and development engineer for Alta Cycling Group. “Anything that can give them confidence will get more people to ride bikes and more people to buy bikes. I hope that’s the goal for everyone.

Hall sees the urban cyclist as the target market for Spoke technology. “We all ride in traffic. People who ride a lot with good bike skills are fine, people who aren’t used to being around cars are the ones who need it.

Diamondback-branded bikes will be Alta’s first use of the technology. “If everything went perfectly, we would see Spoke on model year 2024 bikes. It will be an Alta product with Spoke technology inside,” Hall said. “Cars see bikes, bikes see bikes. cars are the future. Until that happens, we are all sitting ducks,” he concluded.

Another tech fix years in the planning and years from full rollout is a consortium of 11 tech, auto and bike companies under the Tome banner. Trek, Specialized, Shimano and SRAM are members of the consortium, along with Ford and General Motors.

Tome debuted his concept at BLC in 2018, with public demonstrations a few months later. Jake Sigal, CEO of Tome, explained his strategy. “We aim for cyclists to be detected from existing infrastructure,” Sigal said. “Tome is like ABS or airbags. Standardized technology for all messages via mobile phones and low-cost sensors that cost dollars, not hundreds.

“The hardest part is getting the infrastructure to feel like it’s a bike, not something else,” he continued. “There is still a lot of work to do before commercialization. As for the timeline for Tome’s full rollout, “it better be within the next decade, preferably within the next five years.”

Spoke demonstrated its technology to media and industry members at BLC and Sea Otter with real-time GPS/GNSS accuracy. “Thanks to Spoke’s patent-pending hardware and software algorithms, ground truth accuracy is well under six inches,” Sigety said.

Demonstrations included bike position tracking permanently displayed in the Audi instrument cluster. Blind spot detection, right turn assist, left turn assist, intersection motion assist, bike ahead/car behind and real-time lane departure were clearly marked.

“The BLC was our first public event,” Sigety said. “The response has been absolutely as we had hoped. The BLC also provided a platform to meet like-minded industrial OEMs and drive system manufacturers to help identify forward-thinking collaboration partners to invite into the Spoke ecosystem.

For those of us who ride traffic every day, progress like this can’t come too soon.

A version of this article originally appeared in the May issue of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News.


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