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Smarter cars, safer roads: a cyclist perspective

Tech and Innovation

Posted on August 15, 2017

4 min read

It was a real pleasure to be asked by Telstra to test out the new Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) technology in Adelaide last week. As an avid cyclist, I am all too aware of how vulnerable I am on the road. Cyclists are always thinking about where they are positioned on the road, what traffic and vehicles are around us. We are constantly looking over our shoulder for danger, and trying to predict the unpredictable. I was really excited to test the V2P technology and be part of this development that is taking steps forward in making the roads safer for everyone.

I started cycling when I moved to the city a few years ago. I was so stressed out from sitting in my car for an hours in traffic that I bought a bike. My love of cycling all started with an 8 km daily commute to work. I soon found that cycling was like meditation for me, a way to clear my head after a solid working day. As a bonus, it was a way to get some exercise and fresh air. Fast forward a few years and I now race at the highest level in Australia for a National domestic team called Specialized Women’s Racing. I train on the road almost every day, and always commute to work by bike. This means that I am on my bike on average 15 hours per week.

Verita Stewart (photo credit: Paul Spurlo Photography)

Being on the road daily I have quickly learned that you can be the safest rider possible, wearing bright clothing, using high visibility lights and being cautious of your surroundings, but at the end of the day, you can’t always predict other people’s behaviour on the road. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced this first hand when a car didn’t see me and turned in front of me, causing the car to hit me at speed. I was lucky to come off with only minor injuries, but it could have been much, much worse. On a near daily basis I hear stories of friends and fellow cyclists being struck by vehicles that failed to see them. This is why I think this V2P technology is so exciting. This technology could have alerted the driver that I was on the road and avoided the collision.

How does it work? The app runs over the Telstra 4G network directly on cyclists or pedestrians mobile phones. The app talks to vehicles and vice versa, so that when the pedestrian or cyclist is close to the vehicle, an alert sounds advising of a potential collision. The alert is fast enough for both users to change their behaviour in order to avoid a potential collision.

This technology has a lot of potential to improve safety on the roads, not just for cyclists and drivers, but for all road users including pedestrians and motorbikes. It is just another step in the right direction to keep all road users safe, it is really important to be a few seconds ahead of danger, which is what this technology allows.

I was really impressed with what the V2P technology has to offer. The app provided an early warning collision alert, with enough time to get the attention of both car and driver. For a cyclist using this technology on their mobile phone, the app gave an audible beep, along with a visual notification flashing onto the phone screen, just like receiving a text message. The audible alert means that cyclists don’t have to take their eyes off the road, and can continue observing potential threats on the road. For vehicles, the app is built into the vehicle’s internal navigation system. It also gives an audible beep, along with a visual alert. This allows the driver to adjust their behaviour before a potential collision occurs.

In the current climate where the increase in incidents between vehicles and cyclists is creating a hostile environment on the roads, Telstra has designed technology that has the potential to assist in creating greater harmony on our roads. This may not solve all the road safety issues, but it certainly provides an extra level of awareness, and allows all road users to be a few seconds ahead of potential danger. I can imagine a future with this installed in all cars, and used by all road users.