Podcast: Road V2X tech – Safer for bikes, or car culture?

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Hannah is out at the Sea Otter Classic in California, USA. It’s a four day festival of racing and a huge expo area. There are races for every type of bike, but there’s a strong leaning towards mountain biking, and if you want to see new products, prototypes, and unique bikes, it’s the place to be. Head here for all our Sea Otter 2022 Coverage

Out at Sea Otter there is a demo area where two tech companies and Audi are demonstrating the technology they’re developing which they say will help make roads safer for cyclists. Perhaps you’re supposed to ooh and ahh and think it’s wonderful, but, call me a huge sceptic with a chip on their shoulder about car culture, the lobbying power of the automotive industry, and a deep sadness over how the entire planet has been reshaped by a single invention… and breathe… but… I wasn’t going to be won over easily.

The people from the companies agreed to sit down and discuss with me not only the technology itself, but some of the policy and cultural implications of what they were proposing. It was all impromptu and recorded outside at the trade show, so the sound isn’t the usual podcast studio quality, but hopefully you’ll find it interesting.

The voices you hear are – in order – mine (Hannah, Managing Editor at Singletrack), Reid Sigety, CSO and COO of Spoke, Laslo Virag, Chief Executive Officer of Commsignia, Brad Stertz, Director of Government Affairs, Audi USA, and part way through the podcast you’ll hear some additional questions from Singletrack contributor, Kevin/Fahzure.

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There’s a whole world of other things I’d have liked to cover with them, and in many respects I’d have liked to talk about the Commsignia product separately, as it seems like it offers some potential for intelligent infrastructure planning and smart operation which could be used to prioritise active travel and mass transit and make private driving more difficult. But will that happen with the automotive industry’s involvement? Or will it just be used to make private driving more convenient?

I can’t help feel that all this technology is seeking to shift the burden of responsibility off drivers, when we should be seeking to make drivers feel the full weight of the responsibility when they get in a car.

The amber markers alert the driver to the presence of a hazard

Reid from Spoke referenced US data showing that the driver not seeing the cyclist was the main cause of deaths (it’s mentioned on their website though I don’t have the source). In response I was saying that I believed that if the driver didn’t see them it was down to driving too fast and/or inattention and then not having as much time to react because of the speed, rather than just bad luck. And that speed kills – lower speeds injure. He asked about my data source for that, and I was recalling this press release from Cycling UK, and DFT data. On reading that summary after the discussion, I note that the DFT phrases the main cause a little differently that Reid.

The most common contributory factor allocated to pedal cyclists in fatal or serious accidents (FSA) with another vehicle was ‘Driver or rider failed to look properly’.


Failing to look properly is different to ‘I just didn’t see them’. And in my opinion it’s an important difference because it places the responsibility to look with the driver (or rider), rather than the responsibility to take action to be seen.

The DFT data doesn’t specifically cover the point of ‘speed kills’, but it does show that rural roads (which often have a speed limit of 60mph) are disproportionately deadly.

Head here for all our Sea Otter 2022 Coverage

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Hannah Dobson

Managing Editor

I came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. I like all bikes, but especially unusual ones. More than bikes, I like what bikes do. I think that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments. I try to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

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  • Podcast: Road V2X tech – Safer for bikes, or car culture?
  • robertajobb
    Full Member

    Hmmm another device for drivers to dhick about with and be distracted from looking where the fheck they are going.

    I’d prefer the return to the days of a great big pointy spike in the front of the steering wheel to focus the driver’s mind more. Not an extra distraction on a display.

    Full Member

    🤔 a high tech gimmick to add to the distractions for the inattentive and careless.

    Having said that, Teslas identify bicycles near the vehicle and when coming up behind them treat them like any other vehicle: slowing down and keeping a distance when on ‘autopilot’/cruise. Not much value when you can see the cyclist and drive accordingly.

    This could be an incremental step on these manufacturers’ full self driving ambitions. That’s fine. But a cheaper and better step to increase their vehicle safety would be a free advanced driving course with each vehicle. Plus, change the marketing of cars. Given their unattractive qualities, maybe they should be marketed more like tobacco?

    Full Member

    It was obvious from the podcast who was more marketing in the group being interviewed and that concerns me. The Audi chap sounded reasonable and the infrastructure guy sounded like he just wanted to make roads safer and more effective, but I did get a feeling that this (like Hannah said) would be the next helmet/HiVis.

    The comparison with flashing lights is a bit weak though. You can buy cheap, effective blinky LEDs for next to nothing and so they are easily accessible for cyclists with even really limited spending power. I really doubt that this new tech is going to be as cheap as that, or as readily available in anything like the near future. Maybe if the car makers deliberately subsidised them/gave them away it would catch on, but if the tech is 50 USD or the equivalent, it’s going to start being a luxury to a lot of people. Also, bringing in a dead relative is a dick move. Like you said, you can’t respond to that without sounding like an asshole.

    It’s odd to hear the obvious differences between US and UK road users too. The UK has small, crowded roads and drivers that have a rep for being angry and even using cars as deadly weapons. Is the same true in the US? They have more space and straighter roads, yet seem less hate-y about it, or is that just me not being exposed to it more often?

    Full Member

    I could only listen for a few minutes before switching off. So the entire population of cycle users, from age 5-95, have to fit a transponder so the Audi driver doesn’t run you over? And if you don’t then they’ll have a “get out of jail free card?” What a terrible idea.

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