App helps drivers spot bikers before a collision

September 8, 2014

“I didn’t see him coming!” If you’ve ever been in a bike accident, you’ve probably heard — or cried out — this explanation. Most drivers involved in bike accidents simply don’t see oncoming cyclists. Now, a new app using vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology will help drivers spot bike traffic and prevent collisions, reports Co.Exist. The smartphone app BikeShieldApp relies on V2V to warn drivers several seconds before a bike or motorcycle becomes visible.

“You’ve probably had the experience that you’re driving your car, and all of the sudden a motorcycle passes you on the left, fast,” Pere Margalef, a BikeShieldApp designer, explains to Co.Exist. “You think if you’d just decided to change lanes, you would have hit this guy. So I thought, ‘What if somehow before I even see him, I know that he’s coming?’”

We’ve recently reported on the government’s push for V2 technology. Other companies are working on V2V with hardware, such as sensors, installed to facilitate the connection. But the need for V2V with respect to biker safety is too compelling to ignore until such technology is developed and installed. As explains designer Margalef, “[The technology is] too complicated… I know it will happen eventually — in 10 years, cars may be driving themselves and preventing accidents. But that’s too late. I’m riding my bike and motorcycle now, and I want to fix the problem now.”

BikeShieldApp uses GPS to track each vehicle, creating a virtual “shield.” When any two vehicles are “close enough that an accident could happen,” the app notifies the driver with a voiced warning or a sound effect. For example, the warning would alert that a bike is approaching from the left; it is sounded five to ten seconds before a bike or motorcycle comes into view. Bikers don’t receive a warning, as it can be dangerously distracting, but the app does provide them with recommendations for safe traveling routes as well as the number of drivers using the app in the area.

The app is free, to encourage widespread usage. One of the greatest hurdles is getting drivers and bikers to use it, so that it can “truly protect those on the road.” As Co.Exist notes, the designers hope that “tightly knit” communities of cyclists and bikers will recommend the app to their driver friends to increase awareness. Margalef explains, “When I bought my motorcycle, all my friends were freaking out, saying, ‘You’re going to kill yourself, don’t do this.’ So now I can say I found a solution to keep me safe. If everyone who rides a bike or motorcycle shares it with 10 people, that’s one way for car drivers to start using it.”

car and bike sharing road

V2V communication means cars might soon be able to detect cyclists drivers can’t see, preventing accidents. From Sascha Kohlmann.

The app’s designers have more plans for the app: to work with car insurance companies and integrate the technology into their apps, and eventually to bring it into vehicles through technology or through installations in the cars themselves. Another plan is to work with incorporate BikeShieldApp’s technology into navigation apps, such as Google Maps and Waze, so drivers needn’t download extra apps. “No one wants to be in an accident,” Margalef says. “But some drivers might not take the time to download the app, so we also want to integrate it by default.”

Learn more about the app online, and download it when it debuts in the App Store and the Google Play Store on September 12.

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Category: Automotive, Trends

About the Author ()

Katy is a writer, reporter and editor who, in addition to writing for RoadTrafficSigns, has worked with the United Nations Development Programme, Hamptons magazine, Hearst Corporation, The Daily Mail, People Magazine, and a variety of other publications and nonprofits. After graduating with honors from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and distinctions on her thesis and in the consumer journalism seminar, she moved to Milan, Italy. In Italy, she worked as a writer and consultant for an international magazine, editing and translating text and reporting on such events as the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the annual design fair. A born and raised New Yorker, she has lived in three of five boroughs, relying quite a bit on public transport until getting her driver's license at the admittedly belated age of 21.

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