Australia’s largest telecommunications company has developed a cycle helmet which incorporates 5G technology to provide real-time safety alerts to riders, including about potential hazards such as being doored.
Telstra, the largest mobile network operator in Australia with around 20 million subscribers, partnered with local cycling start-up business Arenberg to produce the prototype helmet – with cycle helmets of course being compulsory in all of the country’s states and territories.
The company says that growth in cycling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic had prompted it to look at how 5G technology could improve the safety of cyclists, as highlighted in the above video feauturing retired Olympic and world champion track cyclist Anna Meares.
“The helmet prototype features a 5G connection, which passes video, GPS and other data up to a data processing and analytics cloud, and our V2X program which gathers data from connected cars on the roads,” said Gianpaolo Carraro, Telstra’s Incubation and Product Excellence Executive.
“Our 5G network – which now covers two-thirds of [the] Aussie population – can carry huge amounts of data at incredible speeds, making near real-time communication for vehicle safety possible.
“The bike helmet prototype gathers a range of data, and meshes it together with data gleaned from connected cars around the rider, and connected infrastructure and road cameras around the city.
“This information is then fed to a rider through a speaker in the helmet to provide real-time safety information, alerts and warnings.”
Carraro said that the technology could also be used to predict incidents such as drivers or vehicle passengers opening a car door into the path of a rider.
“It’s more than just giving cyclists eyes in the back of their head: it’s giving them the ability to see around corners where traffic is at a standstill, and even helps them predict the future,” he explained.
“One of the greatest concerns any rider has is being “doored”: where a driver or passenger opens their car door into a bike lane, causing a full-speed collision with a cyclist if not careful. Car doors swinging open can force a rider out of their lane and into the path of another vehicle, where they might not be so lucky.
“When a driver or passenger opens their door, real-time video from the bike helmet is sent over 5G and analysed in a cloud platform, where the opening car door hazard is identified. The platform then pushes down an audio alert to the rider to react it time, thanks to the super low-latency connectivity offered by our 5G network.”
He added: “One life lost on the roads is one life too many. As more and more people take to alternative means of transportation to tackle city congestion, climate change and general fitness, we have to use every piece of technology we can to keep them safe for the future.”
Among criticisms often levelled at companies, often from outside the cycling industry, looking to incorporate technology into products that they claim can improve the safety of cyclists is that there are other tried and tested interventions that can have a quicker and greater impact – such as building safe infrastructure.
Another is that by effectively putting the onus on a cyclist to take measures to ensure their own safety – whether that be through a helmet using 5G, or Volvo’s Life Paint or Ford’s Emoji jacket, some degree of responsibility to ensure rider safety is taken away from motorists, when educating drivers over techniques such as the Dutch Reach to avoid opening a car door into the path of a rider, for example, or to avoid distractions while driving, would have more of a benefit.
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.