Wed. Sep 28th, 2022

One good thing that has emerged from the pandemic is that more people have started cycling. In the first three months of 2021, American consumer spending on bicycles and cycling accessories increased 34% year-on-year to $ 8.2 billion. However, the pandemic has also seen more deaths and injuries while cycling. According to the National Safety Council, 1,260 cyclists were killed in 2020, a 16% increase over 2019.

It’s a problem Ford thinks technology can address. On Monday, the automaker announced it is working with Commsignia, PSS, Ohio State University, T-Mobile and Tome Software to explore how a smartphone app could alert drivers of pedestrians and cyclists they might not see. Like someone sharing the road with a car, you would install the company’s software on your phone. With the help of Bluetooth Low Energy, vehicles with the Ford Sync infotainment system would see you as “headlights”. If the car determines that there is a possibility of an accident, it will alert the driver using audiovisual signals.

According to Ford, his approach has some advantages. One is that Bluetooth LE is almost ubiquitous. The technology has been part of the Bluetooth protocol since 2009, which means that every modern smartphone has access to it. If you own a Ford vehicle, you won’t need to take your car to a dealership for a hardware upgrade as the sync system is Bluetooth compatible. The other benefit of using Bluetooth LE is that your car won’t need to see pedestrians and cyclists before it can warn you. Ford and T-Mobile are also working on a version of the app that uses 5G instead of Bluetooth LE.

In practice, the company’s approach is reminiscent of the COVID exposure notification apps implemented in some countries and states at the onset of the pandemic. As you may recall, those also used Bluetooth LE. However, despite support from Apple and Google, they have never been effective due to low usage. In Canada, for example, the federal COVID Alert app was downloaded only 6.9 million times and recorded 63,117 positive tests. In other words, Canadians haven’t even remotely downloaded the software to make it an effective contact tracking tool. Ford’s app is likely to have some of the same problems.

As an avid cyclist, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen cycling at night without an LED light to make themselves visible to traffic. On the other hand, statistics suggest that motorists have been driving more aggressively in recent years, leading to the aforementioned increase in cyclist deaths and road accidents. Any kind of intervention would be welcome, but Ford’s app is likely not a meaningful solution if it ever hits the market. While the Bluetooth LE solution for COVID has only had one uphill climb, apps like Ford have two: adoption by cyclists and adoption by automakers.

By admin

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