What is the point of bicycle-to-car communication systems?

It is not about making the world safer for cyclists, it is about making the world safer for autonomous cars.

Ford has been doing a big “smart city” push at CES, the tech extravaganza formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show. , they announced a “new artificial intelligence-driven bicycle-to-vehicle communication system.”

At the show on Tuesday, Ford announced a system that uses cellular communications to allow vehicles to communicate with other vehicles, pedestrian devices, bikes, and roadside infrastructure including traffic signs and construction zones. This is a development of a system announced earlier by Detroit software company and Trek bikes.

All of this is being driven by the push to self-driving cars or autonomous vehicles (AVs) where many people are questioning their ability to recognize pedestrians and cyclists, or walkers and cyclers as I prefer to call them. After all, cars are big and relatively predictable and easy to see, and V2V communications can be built into them at relatively little incremental cost.

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The idea with B2V (bike to vehicle) or V2X (Vehicle to everything) is that the AV would know where everything is because of the cellular or other signal that they emit. It is not a new idea; with a smart helmet system that could talk to your phone and then to the cars. We noted a couple of problems at the time; most importantly, it might work in a suburb where there are just a few cars and a few bikes, but in a real urban area? “In any city with a decent number of things to ping that helmet would be ringing and buzzing nonstop.” If there were lots of bikes or pedestrians, the AV would barely be able to move.

But earlier this year, pointed out a much more likely scenario, where V2X systems become key to making AVs work. Bez notes that “to solve the problems of autonomous vehicles one must not only control the vehicle, one must control the system.

And it has to be everyone or the system doesn‘t work. That means mandatory licensing, and mandatory vests or helmets with the V2X tag. Children? Ban them from biking, it isn‘t safe anyway.

© GM Futurama 1939 World‘s Fair

I have predicted this before — , fenced off roads or even Because Bez notes, this has been done before, with trains.

In a world of AVs there is no point in having a V2X system unless everyone is part of it. That means every bike and, who knows, perhaps every pedestrian unless you take the stairs to a grade-separated crosswalk that exempts you from V2X.

That‘s how you control the system, and that is where the AV crowd will push us.