Cyclists Could Avoid Injury With This Wearable From Ford
Ford continues to broaden its outlook on mobility options for consumers with a smart jacket concept that helps people cycle more confidently and better coexist with cars and pedestrians
Cyclists versus cars—it’s an ongoing debate. This topic can be the catalyst for heated discussions about road use, application of laws and taxation. Often though, those points are proxy arguments for infrastructure that is out-of-date or ill-considered. Consumers are told that the future is smart cities with autonomous mobility, but in the meantime 20th-century infrastructure isn’t aging well for the needs of 21st-century humans.
A couple of years ago, Ford formalized a transition to becoming a mobility-focused company instead of just a vehicle manufacturer. Previously, its highest profile connection to cycling was a sponsorship of the GoBike bike sharing program that serves the San Francisco Bay Area. Recently, a group of Ford engineers in Europe, who are also cycling enthusiasts, combined their automotive tech experience with a desire to make cycling safer and more intuitive. They developed a cycling jacket that integrates sensory navigation elements to assist cyclists as well as alert motorists to their changes in direction.
The prototype is a wearable that targets navigation and safety. The jacket is wired to pair with a smartphone and support a navigation app. Fitted to each sleeve are a set of turn signal lights and vibrating pads that alert the cyclist when and which direction to turn and can also be used to signal motorists of the intention to turn. Sewn into the back of the jacket is a strip of LED’s that function as a brake light.
The jacket was developed with the intent to allow cyclists to navigate unfamiliar routes without having to look at their phones while riding or make frequent stops to check progress. Ford partnered with cycling apparel brand LUMO and mobility software developer Tome to get the project realized.
Ford’s interest in the smart jacket concept isn’t to become the maker and seller of it. Ultimately, the company is looking to patent some of the technology and license it to apparel makers in the future. The value, Ford says, is in further understanding of the current mobility landscape and the challenges in having vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians coexist. While it’s far from a solution to the problem of having vehicles and cyclists share the same roadways, it does make an attempt at solving some of the problems faced by bike commuters and especially food delivery cyclists in the short-term. Some of the knowledge gained here could inform technology developments in future Ford vehicles to better recognize and communicate with cyclists through visual cues or proximity sensing.