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Eurobike seminar looks at how bikes and cars could benefit from vehicle-to-vehicle communication

Published August 31, 2017

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany (BRAIN) — Every time someone from Google mentions how difficult it is for its autonomous cars to avoid cyclists on the road, the industry collectively shudders. Comments like these emphasize how pressing it is for cyclists to be able to voice their concerns to automakers as more autonomous features are added to cars.

The Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry (CONEBI) seminar entitled “Bicycle Intelligent Transport Systems, Connectivity and Access to Data”, which was held at Eurobike this week, examined how quickly the automotive and motorcycle industries are moving to advance vehicle-to-vehicle communication and how bicycles currently have little input into that discussion.

Gregor Dashbach, Bosch's director of e-bike system development, described the “digital shield” that Bosch developed with Ducati and other partners that allows a motorcycle to send position, speed and direction of travel information to cars that their safety software can anticipate long before a driver can visually spot the motorcyclist. And a similar system could be developed for bicycles.

Dashbach and others noted that cycling connectivity is evolving on a bicycle-to-cloud-based model. The cloud receives a rider’s speed, position and direction data, not the vehicle-to-vehicle communications that autonomous cars need for safety.

“We think in the cloud but local transmitting and receiving info in real time is where we need to be,” said Tom Acland, co-founder of COBI, a company that provides connectivity systems for e-bikes. He also noted there $2 devices are already available that cyclists can use that will show up on vehicle safety systems — so the technology is there and fairly inexpensive.

Automakers will need to verify cycling data’s integrity and whether it is secure enough to justify activating a car's safety systems to take corrective action. And from a cyclist’s perspective, cars will be receiving data about the bike’s speed, position and other data, and cyclists will need to be assured this data will not be abused. All this points to the need for initiating a dialogue between the two industries.

Kevin Mayne, director of development for the European Cyclists Federation, said claims that autonomous cars will displace other transportation options are overly optimistic.

“It will be quickly apparent to policy makers that having cars take people from their doors everywhere will raise health issues,” he said. “People will still need the exercise of cycling and walking.”

Mayne also said policy makers are open to the needs of cyclists. Working groups in the European Parliament and the United Nations are currently drafting regulations on Intelligent Transport Systems and vehicle-to-vehicle communications protocols. 

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