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Transportation Build Technology

Radar Changing the Face of Cycling 235

First time accepted submitter Franz Struwig writes "MAKE Magazine has a great review of a bicycle radar product — showing off some of the early prototype innards: "The latest version features a 24 GHz radar antenna — high enough to resolve more targets and small enough to fit on a bike — an ARM processor, and Bluetooth LE to communicate with the front unit. The radar creates a doppler map, and recognizes not only the vehicle, but how far away it is and how quickly it’s approaching. It communicates this to the cyclist by a system of LEDs, and to the car by increasing the rate at which the tail light blinks as the car gets closer."
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Radar Changing the Face of Cycling

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  • by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @10:15PM (#47381169) Journal

    I always thought it'd be interesting to have an alert for pedestrians--particularly small children--who run out onto the bike path without looking because "Ooh! The Beach!"

    Granted, it wouldn't work for the little moppets that run between parked SUVs, so it wouldn't be a perfect solution...

    • by TheLink ( 130905 )

      Granted, it wouldn't work for the little moppets that run between parked SUVs, so it wouldn't be a perfect solution...

      That's why I have been proposing that for robot cars they also have cameras/sensors/radars/lidars at bumper height. It's often easier to spot (from a distance) people/animals obscured by vehicles from bumper level than it is to spot them from driver or roof level. But I'm no car or robot car engineer, so someone else will have to actually do it.

      You might be able to do something like this for "kiddie" sensors mounted on bicycles/motorcycles, but given the front wheel of those vehicles is movable it's probabl

  • Useless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jam42 ( 607637 ) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @10:22PM (#47381187)
    As a long-time road cyclist I can say this is a completely useless product. Obviously if one is riding on the road one is going to be passed by cars. And so long as one is not an idiot listening to music while riding, one can *hear* vehicles approaching from the rear. This device can't discern how closely a vehicle is going to pass you, which would be the only useful information - warning you if the vehicle is going to pass, say, less than three feet away horizontally.
    • by carld ( 460344 )
      Good idea, and base light feedback on the likelihood of paths intersecting in addition to proximity.
    • Re:Useless (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @10:59PM (#47381305)
      You know what apparently does work, based on a friend's experiences?

      Putting a pair of amber lights out to the sides of your red center light, and having a sufficiently bright headlamp in front that illuminates a good chunk of road.

      Those work because drivers assume that you're a motorcycle, and if you're a motorcycle then you're a lot heavier, and more likely to cause damage to their car.

      With modern battery technology and modern, super-efficient lighting, it should be easy to fake a bicycle to light up like a motorcycle well enough to fool drivers at night.
      • Re:Useless (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mark-t ( 151149 ) <> on Thursday July 03, 2014 @11:44PM (#47381439) Journal
        If you're a motorcycle, you should be capable of going a lot faster.... and I wouldn't have any reason to suspect that you aren't going to be trying to keep up to the flow of traffic... If I know that you are a bicycle, I know roughly what to expect of your top speed, and will try to safely navigate past you... not try to hit you just because I know that you won't damage my car. Because even if you don't make a scratch in my car's paint job, I'll still have to face all of the other repercussions of being in an accident... which would include an insurance report at the very least... plus being on the hook financially for any damages to them or their bicycle -- unless I intended to do a hit-and-run (which is a jailable offense, so I better hope there are no witnesses who can take note of my license plate).
      • Re:Useless (Score:5, Informative)

        by pipedwho ( 1174327 ) on Friday July 04, 2014 @12:40AM (#47381611)

        It's not that the driver thinks it's a motorbike and gives extra consideration. It's that with multiple co-linear lights, a driver is far better able to judge how far away the cyclist is. As another poster noted, if a driver thinks you're a motorbike, they'll also assume you are travelling at or faster than the traffic flow.

        On a bicycle, a single point source of super bright light will let a driver know that you're somewhere in that direction - while partially blinding them if you angle it up like I see done far too often.

        Whereas, a wider (multi-element) lamp that isn't overly bright will let the driver's eye far better estimate and track how far away you are - while not blinding them to the other surrounds.

        • by TWX ( 665546 )
          Well, his bike is also a kludged-together e-bike with motors, fenders, and above all else, speed. He's able to keep up with traffic on small neighborhood streets and if he pedals (and based on how it's geared pedalling would actually contribute something) he can almost keep up with the speed limit on some of the slower arteries.

          So in his instance the bicycle is bigger than normal and going faster than normal too.
      • by jeti ( 105266 )

        Any kind of unusual light seems to work. I've written a small app (Better Bike Light []) to use my cell phone as a rear light. When I use it, cars are considerably more considerate when bypassing me. I'm not sure if they're more careful when encountering something unfamiliar or are just curious, but it seems to work.

        • I wear an orange reflective vest. (the $4 kind from the hardware store). Clipped to the reflective vest is an LED blinker which is super bright and flashy. Clipped to the back of my bike rack should be an additional LED blinker, but it broke off and I haven't had time to install the 2nd blinky yet.

        • Nifty. Personally I don't think I'd risk attaching my phone to my bike in any way that left me unable to see it, but that's a neat solution you've got with the signalling.

      • by havana9 ( 101033 )
        So you think that the favorite pattime for drivers is hit-and-run cyclist? It's not true: it's way better to hit-and-run the moms with a stroller.
        The real effect to put a bright light on a bike, instead of no lights at all or some puny single-lamp lights, is that having bigger lights makes the cyclist more visible.
      • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

        I've experienced similar. Simply having a very bright bike light on the front stops the b******ds who will pull out or front of you simply because you're a cyclist and don't count). And of course it massively increases the chances of you being seen in the dark.

    • by unimacs ( 597299 )
      Knowing how far a car is behind you and how fast it is approaching can give you some idea whether or not you can move over to make a left turn. And as more electric cars end up on the roads, you may not always hear them coming depending on what other sources of noise there are. I frequently ride through an area near an airport. I'm not going to hear a car approaching over the roar of a plane taking off.

      I'm not sure I'd trust it vs taking a look over my shoulder. That would be my main issue. I've tried va
      • by u38cg ( 607297 )
        My problem with it is that most of the time range rate with respect to a moving vehicle isn't of interest, because the driver of that vehicle is controlling his position with respect to you and can manoeuvre easily. The only time it is of interest is when it crosses the boundary to "too late to act", by which point, it is in fact too late to react. I really struggle to see what I would do differently based on the information this thing would give me.
    • I had the same reaction at first ("useless") .

      Then I remembered my father whose hearing has gotten pretty bad over the years.
      When my parents were out together riding their bicycles somewhere, my mom noticed that he clearly didn't hear some cars approaching from behind. She said that it was kinda worrying in some situations.
      I guess when your hearing gets gradually worse, you can sometimes forget that not hearing a car doesn't mean there isn't one close by.

      And thinking a bit more about it, I've already seen

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Just get a rear-view mirror. Third Eye makes a really nice one that's cheap and beautifully. Why you want some radar with some crap that may or may not work, when you can have a mirror and see *everything* behind you and in front of you. []

    • Indeed. Basically, the light tells you to "prepare for impact".
      But of course, after 20 cars have passed you, the message wears off.

    • I just had an accident as a biker. I was hit from behind in my own lane. maybe that flashing light would have made the driver of the car more aware of me

    • I'm a little deaf in my left ear from bicycle-touring on busy roads. I'm not sure range/quality of this radar, but if it detects things that you cannot possibly detect, it could be at least a tiny bit useful. For instance you are riding into headwind down a windy one lane dirt road at night. If I car is trying to pass you at the 20 mph speed limit that's fine, but if some joyriding kids are "offroading" on road at 30-50 mph, they aren't going to be able to stop.

      Sure if you hear them you will get off the

  • by alphazulu0 ( 3675815 ) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @11:22PM (#47381393)

    I commented elsewhere that this is heavy, complicated and no better than a tiny rear flasher. Plus, while getting rear-ended by a car sounds scary, it's one of the least common bike accidents. According to these stats (based on bike collisions in 3 cities in 1995), only 3.8% of crashes were car rear-ends bike: []

    There's some cool tech in this product, but it won't help with the most common bike collisions (#1 car pulls out in front of bike, #2 parked car door opens into bike).

    • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

      According to that link regarding causes of accidents: Motorist left turn at same time as cyclist left turn is only at 4.5% but in London this is the cause of half of cyclist deaths because the cyclist gets trapped underneath the left turning vehicle (typically HGVs with poor mirror systems). Point being, cars moving slowly and pulling out are not likely to injure cyclists as badly as a motor vehicle moving at 30-50mph and hitting the cyclist from behind or causing them to fall off in to fast moving traffic.

  • Bicycles can be an art form in themselves. To look right a bike needs a very naked look. The idea of electronic systems on a bike will not be popular in my opinion. Now a system inside a car that makes a public record of how the car approached bicycles might be acceptable and not intrusive in a car. Lite weight and a clean look at all of the bike is what sells. Many bicyclists will not even keep fenders on their bikes as it spoils the entire designed goals.
  • I was thinking of building something like that, but I would want to get the min distance of a passing car and its speed. Which would give me a good reason to beat the shit out of them when I catch them. I ride half an hour on a fairly large but winding mountain road every morning. Not much traffic (150 cars on average during those 30 min). But on average there'll be one car that passes within 10cm of me every day. At 90km/h. Assholes not fully awake yet who think they know their daily commute road by heart
    • by u38cg ( 607297 )
      In the UK, you can take the plate number and make a report of careless driving to the police. Although they almost certainly won't prosecute with no evidence, they will speak to the driver and frankly for many people just having a cop knock on the door is sobering enough. In my experience it's never worth attempting to deal with it on the scene; people aren't willing to admit they're wrong, ever.
  • Even the legendary Shimano is having hard time selling their electronic gears and not even daring to make them automatic since...Bicycle riding people _hate_ electronic devices except head/tail lights, speedometers. It doesn't fit at all. No, they aren't luddites either. Some seriously high technology is in use by cyclers today but they are all fit into the "soul" of cycling. Not a radar.

  • If they're going to install it so that it looks backwards, aren't they changing the butt of cycling?
  • by CurryCamel ( 2265886 ) on Friday July 04, 2014 @06:35AM (#47382501) Journal

    Why should a rear light flash in the first place? I don't think it adds at all to a rear lights functionality, and does cause - at least for me - a rise in adrenaline: flashing usually means something is out of order, or exceptional (e.g. emergency vehicles or someone hitting the breaks).

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"