If you’re driving in one of Jaguar’s new experimental “Bike Sense” cars and a cyclist rides up behind you, your seat will reach forward and politely tap you on the shoulder so you know the bike is there. You’ll also hear the sound of a ringing bike bell in the direction of the cyclist, and your dashboard will quickly light up amber, then red, as the cyclist rides by.
It’s part of a system that uses an array of sensors to scan for other road users–bikes, motorcycles, or pedestrians crossing the street–and then automatically sends a customized alert. By analyzing shapes on the street, the system knows what kind of vehicle is approaching.
“We can provide the driver with the right information at the right time, without distracting them, so they can make the best decisions in the most demanding and congested driving environments,” says Lee Skrypchuk, human-machine interface technical specialist at Jaguar.
Each of the alerts is tailored to use colors, sounds, or touch to alert a driver through instinct. If a driver pulls over and starts to open the car door in the path of an oncoming cyclist, for example, the handle will light up, vibrate, and buzz. If a motorcycle rides by, the driver will hear a revving engine alert instead of a bike bell. If the driver ignores an alert and tries to accelerate, the accelerator vibrates and stiffens.
At crowded intersections, the system quickly prioritizes obstacles and sends alerts only for the closest bikes or pedestrians. The designers are working carefully to make the alerts something that drivers will actually want to use.
“Part of our research is to understand how to best use sounds, light, and touch to communicate with the driver without annoying them,” Skrypchuk explains. “The driver would always be able to choose to turn a system off–but the aim would be to develop a system that isn’t intrusive and offers real benefits for the driver.”
The same technology could eventually be used in self-driving cars. “Part of the reason we are developing human machine interface projects like Bike Sense is because of the journey we are to increased automation,” he says. “The acceptance of future technologies will be part be driven by increasing driver confidence in these new systems.”
Unlike a similar project from Volvo, which uses a wired bike helmet to communicate with cars and prevent crashes, this system wouldn’t require any new tech for cyclists; the car could automatically sense anything in its path. But cyclists can’t relax yet–this is still very much a research project, and the developers at Jaguar say it could be five or ten years before the system is fully ready to be on the road. And then, of course, you’d need everyone to own a Jaguar.