Bright idea! Smart jacket for cyclists

Finding the way through busy streets on two wheels can be daunting and for cyclists who take their eyes off the road to glance at navigation apps, this can also increase risk – both for them and for other road-users and pedestrians.

Now, some of our cycle-enthusiast employees have come up with a unique wearable that enables riders to find their way around more easily, and to more clearly display their presence and intentions to others, while connected to an app.

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Tom Thompson, from Ford's smart mobility team
We want to help people – and goods – move more safely, confidently and freely around our cities. The smart jacket concept helps us to better understand how the different players that a part of the urban mobility ecosystem are – cyclists, cars, and pedestrians – can better co-exist through the application of smart technologies and how we can apply those learnings to future ideas.

The smart jacket concept has sleeves that light up to show when wearers plan to turn right or left. Wirelessly connected to a smartphone, the jacket’s bike-friendly navigation app vibrates the appropriate sleeve, so riders know which way to go, using routes that avoid busy roads and junctions.

And there is no need for cyclists to take their eyes off the road or their hands off the handlebars to consult a smartphone screen. Audible and haptic interfaces enable riders to take calls, receive messages and repeat navigation guidance. The jacket also integrates a flashing brake light.

Thompson who helped to develop the jacket in his spare time.
There is an immediate change in mindset once there is no longer any need to stop to consult navigation apps directly on your phone – or worry if you’re heading into a particularly busy or dangerous road junction.

The cyclists who developed the jacket and have been trialling it on their daily cycle commute to their offices in London are charged with researching the “last-mile” challenge. This refers to the last-leg of a journey not only in the context of a personal commute but also around delivering goods and services in dense and congested urban environments. This leg is generally associated with higher cost and more complexity.

The smart jacket concept ties our “Share The Road” campaign that aims to foster greater harmony and empathy between both drivers and cyclists. It also coincides with a week when cycling and technology take centre stage through Bike Week UK and London Tech Week 2018.

Bicycles are becoming ever more popular in urban environments for commuting, for recreation and for delivering goods and services. During the morning peak, cycling is in fact the most popular mode of transport in the City of London, one of Greater London’s districts, where around three times as many people now ride compared with in 1999. *

Developed with urban cycling clothing specialists LUMO and mobility software experts Tome, the smart jacket concept underlines our collaborative approach to innovation. Further advanced features in the pipeline would enable commercial dispatch riders to access calls and messages using hand gestures and voice commands. The use of bone-conduction headphones avoids blocking out sounds from pedestrians and other road users, as earbud headphones might do – sending sound to the inner ear via vibrations to the jawbone.

For now, the smart jacket remains a prototype. However, we are in the process of securing the patent that it might in future be further developed or licenced to others, along with the companion app and know-how.

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