Leveraging IoT Technology to Make Driving and Cycling Safer and More Efficient

With solutions emerging everywhere, from automotive titans to scrappy startups, technological approaches to improved safety and efficiency for drivers, cyclists and even motorcyclists are quickly evolving.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Mar 12, 2015

City dwellers are increasingly multi-modal. Commuters might not completely switch to bicycles, or entirely ditch their cars and opt for public transit, but access to real-time traffic data means they can make informed decisions each morning about the fastest way to the office—plus, some employers offer incentives, in exchange for tax breaks, to employees who bike or take public transit. According to the League of American Bicyclists, bike commuting has increased 80 percent since 2000 in "bike-friendly" communities—which provide dedicated lanes or other infrastructure to encourage cycling—and by 47 percent elsewhere.

But the rate of bike-vehicle accidents and fatalities has grown along with participation, which has biking advocates and transportation planners looking for ways to improve infrastructure and education. Technology may play a role in this as well, through vehicle-to-bike communication techniques. Early attempts at this approach, both in the commercial and consumer sectors, are starting to emerge.

IoT technologies may play a role in reducing bike-vehicle accidents and fatalities.
Ford and Volvo Marrying Bikes and Cars
It's not just commuters who can capitalize by using multiple modes of transport. While bike-based delivery services are nothing new, Ford recently announced a concept foldable electric bicycle that, paired (via a customized cargo holder) with Ford Transit Connect vans and a smartphone app, could help courier services or other businesses go multi-modal while also leveraging IoT technology. The system, dubbed MoDe:Pro, features a prototype foldable bicycle equipped with an electric-assist motor and an embedded communication module that allows a rider to receive step-by-step directions through a prototype smartphone app called MoDe:Link (compatible with Apple's iPhone 6).

The app triggers the right or left handlebar grip to vibrate as a signal to the rider that he or she needs to make a corresponding turn, while the app also triggers an integrated turn signal on the bike to blink. For "no-sweat" riding, sensors in the handlebars also track the rider's heart rate and adjust the electric motor's output to reduce his or her exertion.

An ultrasonic sensor embedded in the bike's rear cargo rack alerts the rider, via the MoDe:Link app, when a car is approaching from behind. The sensor also triggers a rear light to blink, to make the bicycle more visible to the driver.

With two employees in the van, one could use the e-bike to make deliveries in hard-to-reach sections of a congested urban corridor, while the driver could continue on to make additional deliveries in areas where parking is more accessible. Conversely, a service provider, such as an IT technician or repair person, or a sales person could use the system to park once and make multiple stops, via bicycle, throughout a single area.

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