Can Radar And RFID Stop Drivers From Killing Cyclists?

Can Radar and RFID Stop Drivers From Killing Cyclists?

Last month, London reached a grim milestone: Six cyclists were killed within 14 days, sparking a massive "die-in" protest. London isn't alone; 176 cyclists or pedestrians were killed in NYC last year. The rapidly rising death toll is spurring a race to build a technology to warn drivers before they hit someone on foot or bike.

Can Radar and RFID Stop Drivers From Killing Cyclists?

A protest in London this month. Image: Getty/Peter Macdiarmid.

It's a sad business. As The Guardian notes, the majority of deaths are caused by truck drivers, quoting statistics that show trucks are involved in more than half of cycling deaths but only account for five per cent of road traffic. Similar numbers hold true stateside.

Now, Transport for London — akin to the Department of Transit in New York — is testing three systems that are designed to issue warnings to drivers who might not see a cyclist or pedestrian in the path of their vehicle. Each is different, though a common goal is to warn drivers of cyclists in their blind spots — especially when it comes to the dreaded left turn, which has played a role in many of the recent deaths. We took a closer look to find how what exactly these systems do.


Can Radar and RFID Stop Drivers From Killing Cyclists?

A one-year-old engineering firm in Bristol called Fusion Processing makes a product called CycleEye™ that uses inputs from cameras and radar mounted on buses, designed to record data within six feet of the each side of the vehicle.

The data is pulled through a "detection algorithm" that, according to Fusion, makes it possible to detect the lone cyclist against a mess of trees, weather, and moving cars. Then, it alerts the driver to the danger. "This not only reduces false alerts, but reduces the cognitive load on a busy driver, enabling a faster response in potentially critical situations, in turn providing a more effective detector," the company explains.

Can Radar and RFID Stop Drivers From Killing Cyclists?

Safety Shield

Then there's Safety Shield Systems, a company that's using the same technology to spot cyclists and pedestrians that self-driving cars use on the road. The proprietary tech was developed by the Israeli company Mobileye, which uses video inputs and motion sensors.

But Safety Shield uses the data to warn drivers rather than steer the car. It does this in two ways: First, via a heads-up panel that shows where the cyclist is, and then, through a "critical" sound warning if a collision is imminent.

Cycle Alert

Finally, The Guardian points to Cycle Alert, a system that requires cyclists to attach a small RFID tag on their bike. The tag is motion-activated, so when you grab your helmet or bike, it knows to begin sending out radio-frequency electromagnetic fields. Then, buses and trucks fitted with the appropriate receptors would intercept them at certain distances, and warn the drivers when a cyclists is too close.

Can Radar and RFID Stop Drivers From Killing Cyclists?

The problem with the RFID solution, obviously, is that it would require every single bike in the city be fitted with the tag — and it doesn't do much for pedestrians. On the other hand, it would be easy to use technological solutions like these as a crutch, when in reality, it'll probably take a mix of tech and simpler efforts — education and outreach — to fix the problem.

London's tests will continue into next year, and it seems in no great rush to choose a blanket solution for the problem. That's sensible — jumping into a hardware-heavy program too soon could actually end up making a tense civic situation worse if it malfunctions. But it's heartening to imagine a future where radar and radio frequency tech, originally developed to guide planes and trucks through the world, are reappropriated to protect humans, too. [The Guardian]

Picture: Cyclists at a "die-in" protest in London this month. Image: Getty/Peter Macdiarmid


    Neither side will comply uniformly

    How about drivers check their 7 at corners and cyclists be consistent in taking the assumption that any vehicle can do anything at any time. Choose to not travel in a metal surrounded vehicle then you HAVE to take responsibility for that

      Exactly, I'm a cyclist and I'm always alert, an accident might not be my fault but I'm the one that will be hurt.

    Yeah, this is a "both drivers and cyclists need to step up" to fix it.

    I cycled 8k's to school for 5 years, and never in that time did a motor vehicle come close to hitting me. I attribute this to having good roads, with decent space for both travelers, and also I kept a good idea of what was around me at all times, and I didn't try to play chicken with stuff that could kill me.. if a vehicle was edging over towards the side of the road, I assumed it was likely to be turning soon and I slowed down so that I didn't put myself in danger.

    On the other side of the coin, the only cyclists that have come close to hitting my car were doing crazy shit that they need to stop doing. (Riding through red lights, riding off the footpath across crossings without stopping, weaving through traffic without looking, riding waaaay too fast down the sides of slow moving traffic, riding at night in black clothing without reflectors or lights or any kind of warning attire at all. I've seen some insane riding from the bike couriers in Brisbane etc).

    Trucks and buses have blind spots every one knows that. How bout not riding in their blind spots. Cars and motorcycles seem to be able to.

      Cars are far bigger and usually overlap any blindspot (the same is true to a lesser extent for motorbikes). Pedal cycles small size is both an advantage (maneuverability) and a disadvantage (disappear into the background) in traffic. Have a look at the video in the "outreach" link - this seems to be the "in a perfect world" type simple fix, but in reality I fear that laziness, lack of respect (both ways) and "it'll never happen to me" will mean that this approach won't get any decent adoption rates any time soon.

      Most modern trucks and buses (and cars) do NOT have blind spots. The real problem is that truck and bus drivers do not check their mirrors adequately.

        Really? Cause like when a car is directly behind a truck you can't see them. Most trucks are wider than cars and the mirrors can't see round corners. Also vehicles in front and to the side of a truck on the left hand side get hidden as well. Its why you see some with windows in the lower halves of the doors. And when it comes to motor bikes and push bikes they are very easily hidden. Hell even my car has a blind spot look directly to my eight and the Pilar is there. I'd say the real problem is people don't understand the limitations of some vehicles on the road.

          Trucks have rear view cameras, and if they don't - they should! They are less than $100. These cameras can also be used to cover the left forward section that you mention.
          Of course, you can't see through the window pillar. That's why you have a rear view mirror mounted outside the window. And then, if that doesn't cover where you need to see, you stick your head out of the window!
          There is absolutely no excuse for moving your vehicle into a space without first making sure that space is vacant. The claim "they were in my blind spot" is a poor defence for killing someone.

            So other road users should not need to take any of their own responsibility for their safety and leave it completely up to other people? You know like these indicator things to let others know your intention. If you're beside any vehicle and its indicator comes on as well as the driver of the vehicle making sure its clear the drivers of vehicles in their path should make safe room.


            See that? Perfect example of how crazy many cyclists are. Hit a STATIONARY car, got angry at the driver that was kind enough to get out of the car to make sure he's okay. Then stole the car. Granted most cyclists won't steal a car after hitting it, but most are just as incompetent at paying attention to their surroundings.

    you know what will stop the death of cyclists? Smarter cyclists. Too many cyclists flaunt road rules like it doesn't apply to them. Do they not realise that motor vehicles and trucks especially take a while to stop? Cyclists regularly veer on to the road without giving any kind of indication. No hand signal, not anything. They just assume that cars can go from from 60 to 0 within millimetres. It's even worse when they do this on a 90 road. Even if the driver had the fastest reaction time in the world and did a hard brake in a split second of seeing that cyclist veer on to the road, it would still take them a good 20? 30? 50 meters? before the car can come to a full stop.

    Here in Australia, cyclists regularly go ON the white line separating the bike path from the road or worse, they go on the road, even though there's a perfectly good bike path off to the side. Do they not realise that it's better to travel in the MIDDLE of the bike lane. Or better yet, travel closer to the kerb/footpath than to the road? I see cyclists all the time on my way to and from work and the only cyclists that I see using the bike path are kids. Adult cyclists pretty much never use the bike path, preferring to travel on the road, causing a nuisance for all and a danger for themselves.

    Maybe Cyclists should do the same thing their "bigger" brethren do and stay visible to traffic? driving/riding in a manner which allows you to be seen deters most accidents

      What would that involve?
      Not riding on the side of the road, and taking up a whole lane?

      But then that upsets motorists because "they are using our roads, and they don't pay road tax." (not my opinion, but one that is held by a lot of people)

      It's a catch-22.

      Cyclists and cars will never mix, because there is always idiots in any population. There are idiot bike riders and idiot car drivers. The problem is that the cyclist is the one that always gets injured or killed, even when they aren't the idiot in that situation.

        "The problem is that the cyclist is the one that always gets injured or killed, even when they aren't the idiot in that situation."

        Same can be said in regards to motorbike riders. hence the SMIDSY (Sorry Mate I Didn't See You) ads that keep popping up. The onus shouldn't always be on the rider or the driver. the technologies being shown here are basically saying the truck/bus drivers are always at fault.

    Both parties definitely need to be more careful.. Some of both drivers, and bike riders are absolutely terrible with safety. As a rider myself, I judge many of the other riders I see with a pretty cold eye.. When you see lycra-clad men on $3000 bikes running red lights because "that's the advantage of a bike", or doing 5km/hr in the middle of the road on a single lane stretch.. Only to turn around and hate on drivers because they're so insensitive and that they're allowed to ride in the middle of the road so they shouldn't have a problem.. It's like.. Jesus..

    Drivers are obviously a big concern because they frequently don't even look, which isn't so much a problem WITH cyclists, but definitely FOR cyclists.. I myself always, ALWAYS assume that cars can and will do anything. This only really becomes an annoying practice when you stop for traffic, only to have them then stop and wave you across while traffic builds up behind them..

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