Researchers Develop Collision Warning System for Bicycles


By Charles Pekow — Imagine a sensor that can give an audible sound in time to avoid a collision from an auto getting too close to a bicycle. University of Minnesota researchers think they’ve invented it. The device, compact and small enough to fit on a bicycle, provides an echo location that can warn motorists when they can create a hazard by getting too close too fast to a bicyclist from behind or from a right turn at an intersection. The device is sensitive enough to tell when a car is turning. When a vehicle gets to close, a loud horn will warn the motorist.

A New York City deliverista navigates the streets of NYC. Cyclists would benefit from a collision warning system in development. Photo by Dave Iltis

Researchers said they tried the device out on a Minneapolis road and it works, but they acknowledged it needs more testing and they need to devise a way to alert motorists coming from other directions, specifically left-turning vehicles. Similar devices for cars are too big to fit on a bicycle. And camera systems would be too expensive and big.

The National Science Foundation has provided the authors with a grant for more study. They plan a field test starting next spring with 10 bicycles over six months, says Rajesh Rajamani, professor of mechanical engineering and chief of the study. Cost may be a catch: “Our objective has always been to keep the cost at $500 or below” but the price would be up to whatever company markets it, Rajamani says. He says “the sensors and electronics will be light-weight and not heavy at all. They should not be hard to install.”

While the systems should hold up in all weather conditions, the project has not addressed the issue of preventing stealing them, the plague of all cyclists. Developers haven’t named the device yet.

Read about the project at


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