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Volvo teams up with POC for collision avoiding helmet that 'talks' to cars

Swedish car manufacturer claims world first in road safety with wearable technology aimed at avoiding collisions

Volvo has teamed up with POC and mobile communications specialist Ericsson to unveil wearable technology that will alert cyclists and car drivers to each other’s presence by enabling cars to ‘talk’ to cycle helmets.

The technology, claimed to be a world first, will be unveiled at next month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

According to the Sweden-based car manufacturer, “The technology consists of a connected car and helmet prototype that will establish 2-way communication offering proximity alerts to Volvo drivers and cyclists and thereby avoid accidents.”

A smartphone app enables the precise location of cyclists and vehicles to be logged on Volvo's cloud database. When a collision is deemed imminent, a head-up display warns the driver, while a warning light on the helmet also alerts the cyclist.

Volvo adds: “No car manufacturer has previously put a stake in the ground to help address the problem by using Connected Safety technology – until now.”

Clearly there are limitations to the real-world application of the technology. Not everyone chooses to wear a cycle helmet – let alone one made by POC – and Volvo has a tiny share of the car market in countries such as the UK.

Moreover, it may be doubtful, given current limitations in GPS technology and smartphone data speeds, whether such warnings could come in time to prevent a crash happening.

But, it’s certainly an indication of the way technology aimed at preventing road traffic collisions could be going in the coming years.

We certainly wouldn’t discount the notion that a few years down the line, cars could be equipped with non-proprietary technology that intervenes when a cyclist or pedestrian is at risk of a collision.

Meanwhile, products aimed at warning cyclists of the presence of vehicles behind them are already being developed, such as this one from York University.

So to have the two communicating with one another - outside the confines of a single system - wouldn’t seem to be too much of a stretch.

For its part, Volvo has a vision of zero serious injuries or deaths of occupants of its vehicles by 2020, and also of reducing casualties among vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians.

The vehicle manufacturer puts technology firmly at the centre of that philosophy, and its Volvo Trucks division, for example has previously announced it is working on systems to detect cyclists and pedestrians.

The company’s focus on a technological approach to reduce road casualties, however, is believed to be partly behind the resistance on Sweden’s part – the country is home to both Volvo and Scania – to changes to EU regulations that would permit the design of lorries that campaigners say would be safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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