Around $1.5 million has been invested into the research so far at the University of Michigan, part-funded by the software company Tome themselves and also the Trek Corporation, with the aim of making cycling safer by allowing cars and bikes to 'talk' to each other using artificial intelligence.
The suggested products, described by Trek's brand manager Eric Bjorling as "the most important thing happening in cycling right now", would be beneficial to both cyclists and drivers. For cyclists, apps that could be integrated into existing accessories such as lights would be a more attractive proposition rather than forking out for an aftermarket product - the idea would be for the AI to give alerts when the cyclist is approaching areas where there is a high rate of collisions, and also provide information on road surfaces and weather conditions in real-time.
This isn't Trek's first foray into innovative cycle safety products: shown are the Transmitr remote-controlled lights from their accessories brand Bontrager
For drivers, Tome suggest that their software could be integrated into sat navs - this would warn drivers when cyclists are approaching, which would be particularly useful in bright sunlight or at night when visibility is reduced. It would have to be highly sophisticated to be able to detect when there is simply a high number of cyclists in the vicinity (such as in heavily built-up areas) and when an actual hazard is nearby. It's not clear how the technology would function yet as research is still in its early stages.
Trek approached Tome first about working together on the project, and it's thought the technology could become even more useful if and when driverless cars become a regular fixture of the road. Bjorling told us: “Historically Trek has been focused on what we as cyclists can do to put ourselves in the best possible position to be recognized by drivers. We are taking the next step and are now actively focusing Trek’s R&D resources in partnership with Tome to impact what a car can do to recognize a cyclist. This is the most important and exciting work being done in the cycling industry today but for us, it’s just the next step on our journey to make cycling safer."
After cobbling together a few hundred quid during his student days off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story), Jack bought his first road bike at the age of 20 and has been hooked ever since. He joined road.cc in 2017, having previously worked for 220 Triathlon magazine. Jack's preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking (the latter being another long story), and on Sunday afternoons he can often be found on an M5 service station indulging in his favourite post-race meal of 20 chicken nuggets, a sausage roll, caramel shortbread and a large strawberry milkshake.