In today’s world of inattentive drivers, the idea of bicycles sharing the roadways with cars can be downright terrifying for cyclists. After all, there’s nothing like an imaginary three-foot buffer to keep you safe from that speeding, distracted driver. Jaguar Land Rover is looking to change that, however, with the development of a new safety technology that helps warn drivers if they are too close to a bicycle or if one could be approaching from a blind spot.

Called Bike Sense, the technology uses a series of sensors that detects a cyclist (or even a motorcyclist) and offers three ways to alert the driver if a bicycle is in a car’s blind spot, about to come out from behind a stationary object and even if the driver just isn’t paying attention.

When a bicycle is detected near the vehicle, Bike Sense uses a series of LEDs and audible warnings through the speakers (that sounds like a bicycle bell) to alert the driver of the cyclist’s proximity as well as the direction of travel. If the driver decides to ignore these warnings and still proceeds, Bike Sense incorporates two tactile warnings to alert the driver: a part of the driver’s seat that extends to tap the driver on their shoulder (in the direction the bicycle is approaching from) and an accelerator pedal that vibrates or stiffens up when the driver ignores the warnings and still tries to accelerate.

Perhaps the best part of Bike Sense is the warning that protects bicycles from opening car doors. If a vehicle occupant is opening a car door and the system detects a potential collision with a bicycle, an audible warning will sound and that particular door handle will both light up and vibrate.

JLR has not said when such a technology could make its way into production vehicles, but it will be a welcomed feature for cyclists around the world.

Click past the jump to read more about Jaguar Land Rover’s "Bike Sense" safety system.

Why it matters

Automakers are always looking for new technologies to make the roadways safer, and this new technology that Jaguar Land Rover is working on makes it easier for bicycles to coexist on the streets with cars. As of right now, this is still being developed, but if it is brought to market, Bike Sense could reduce the collisions between motorists and cyclists making the roads safer for everyone.

Editorial Note: Though this system is mostly marketed to inattentive drivers, I must also note that this will help protect inattentive bikers and those who refuse to follow the rules of the road. Remember, in most states in the U.S., bicyclists are required to follow the same rules as motorists, and I have seen (and experienced) many near accidents with bicyclists that were due to the bicyclist’s error.

Jaguar Land Rover Reveals "Bike Sense" Safety System Interior
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Press Release

Jaguar Land Rover is developing a range of new technologies that would use colours, sounds and touch inside the car to alert drivers to potential hazards and prevent accidents involving bicycles and motorbikes.

Jaguar Land Rover Reveals "Bike Sense" Safety System
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Sensors on the car will detect when another road user is approaching and identify it as bicycle or motorbike. Bike Sense will then make the driver aware of the potential hazard before the driver sees it.

But rather than using a generic warning icon or sound, which takes time for the driver’s brain to process, Bike Sense uses lights and sounds that the driver will instinctively associate with the potential danger.

To help the driver understand where the bike is in relation to their car, the audio system will make it sound as if a bicycle bell or motorbike horn is coming through the speaker nearest the bike, so the driver immediately understands the direction the cyclist is coming from.

If a bicycle or motorbike is coming up the road behind the car, Bike Sense will detect if it is overtaking or coming past the vehicle on the inside, and the top of the car seat will extend to ‘tap’ the driver on the left or right shoulder. The idea is that the driver will then instinctively look over that shoulder to identify the potential hazard.

As the cyclist gets closer to the car, a matrix of LED lights on the window sills, dashboard and windscreen pillars will glow amber and then red as the bike approaches. The movement of these red and amber lights across these surfaces will also highlight the direction the bike is taking.

Dr Wolfgang Epple, Director of Research and Technology, Jaguar Land Rover, said: “Human beings have developed an instinctive awareness of danger over thousands of years. Certain colours like red and yellow will trigger an immediate response, while everyone recognises the sound of a bicycle bell.

“Bike Sense takes us beyond the current technologies of hazard indicators and icons in wing mirrors, to optimising the location of light, sound and touch to enhance this intuition. This creates warnings that allow a faster cognitive reaction as they engage the brain’s instinctive responses. If you see the dashboard glowing red in your peripheral vision, you will be drawn to it and understand straight away that another road user is approaching that part of your vehicle.”

If a group of cyclists, motorbikes or pedestrians were moving around the car on a busy urban street, the system would intelligently prioritise the nearest hazards so the driver would not be overwhelmed or distracted with light or sound.

Bike Sense would also be able to identify hazards that the driver cannot see. If a pedestrian or cyclist is crossing the road, and they are obscured by a stationary vehicle for example, the car’s sensors will detect this and draw the driver’s attention to the hazard using directional light and sound.

Jaguar Land Rover Reveals "Bike Sense" Safety System Interior
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If the driver ignores the warnings and presses the accelerator, Bike Sense will make the accelerator pedal vibrate or feel stiff, so the driver instinctively knows not to move the car forwards until the hazard has been avoided.

Bike Sense will also help prevent vehicle doors being opened into the path of bikes when the vehicle is parked. Bike Sense would warn all passengers of an approaching cyclist, motorbike or car through sound and light inside the vehicle. If any passenger continues to open the door, the door handle will light up, vibrate and buzz to alert them to the danger.

“By engaging the instincts, Bike Sense has the potential to bridge the gap between the safety and hazard detection systems in the car and the driver and their passengers,” added Dr Epple. “This could reduce the risk of accidents with all road users by increasing the speed of response and ensuring the correct action is taken to prevent an accident happening.”

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