After making cars for almost 90 years, Volvo’s newest design is a bike helmet. It’s part of the company’s ambitious plan to completely eliminate car crashes–including collisions with cyclists–over the next five years.
If a cyclist wearing the new smart helmet veers into the path of a car, the helmet flashes a warning. Inside the car, the driver gets an alert. In theory, both the cyclist and driver should have enough time to change course and avoid a crash.
The helmet, developed along with telecom company Ericsson and protective gear company POC, works with an app that tracks the position of the cyclist, and beams that data back and forth to anyone in a connected car.
“It can get us even closer to eliminating the remaining blind spots between cars and cyclists,” says Klas Bendrik, VP and group CIO of Volvo Car Group.
Over the last few decades, the safety-obsessed company has worked on one of the world’s largest studies of car accidents, and found that about a third of bike-car collisions happen when a bike is in the driver’s blind spot to the side. The tech will also send a warning if a bike is hidden around a corner or behind another vehicle.
The helmet works in tandem with some of Volvo’s other safety tech. In 2013, the manufacturer started adding radar and camera systems to cars to detect cyclists (or pedestrians, or other vehicles), and automatically brake.
“Our goal is to build cars that do not crash,” says Bendrik. “We plan to achieve this by many different means . . . connected safety solutions have the potential to be an important element, next to other technologies like radars, sensors and cameras. Self-driving technology plays an integral role in our Vision 2020 goal–that by the year 2020, no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo–and avoiding collisions with cyclists is certainly part of that.”
Volvo unveiled the new design, which is still in development, at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show today. Ultimately, the company thinks that every vehicle should use similar tech–and perhaps every cyclist should be wearing a smart helmet.
“We believe that if this technology proves to be effective, other car manufacturers should apply it as well,” Bendrik says. “At Volvo, we believe that the whole traffic ecosystem must become safer.”