Audi Teams With Qualcomm, Others to Make Cycling Safer
Audi has confirmed it is working on connected technology to make roads safer for cyclists.
The German automotive manufacturer has teamed up with Qualcomm, Commsignia and cycling safety platform Spoke in a trial of cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) solutions.
The test involves the development of hardware and software in an e-tron Sportback to identify bicycles on the road by using both direct vehicle-to-bicycle communication via short-range signals that do not rely on a cellular network, and LTE (Long-Term Evolution) signals that use cellular towers.
The goal is for vehicles to be able to read their surroundings and identify when bicycles are nearby – even those that are obstructed from view – by linking up with a suite of technologies developed by Spoke. The Spoke tech has been designed to be the industry’s first reliable connected system to offer secure, direct communication for “contextual awareness and direct alerts between drivers and bike riders.”
The test is the latest step in Audi’s effort to develop C-V2X tech in the U.S. to help vulnerable road users. In 2020, it teamed up with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and Virginia Department of Transportation in an initiative that used C-V2X tech to inform vehicles approaching a construction zone about speed limits, and to alert roadside workers when vehicles were close via a connected safety vest.
And in Alpharetta, Georgia, the automaker connected cars with school buses to identify when children were boarding or exiting, and alert drivers when they were near active school zones.
However, the trial of the tech to improve cyclists’ safety is particularly timely. In November, Congress allocated funds for a two-year research study led by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Highway Administration to expand research efforts into how cyclists can be incorporated into the safe deployment of connected vehicle systems.
That more needs to be done to protect cyclists is not in doubt. The most recent NHTSA data available, from 2019, found there were 846 bicycle fatalities from motor vehicle related accidents – a 36% increase from 2010. The National Roadway Safety Strategy, released by the Department of Transportation in January, observes that “fatalities among pedestrians and bicyclists have been increasing faster than roadway fatalities overall in the past decade.”
The potential for C-V2X tech is vast, with Audi estimating there will be 5.3 million vehicles, work zones, railway crossings, bicycles and other devices that will be able to connect using it by 2023. By 2028, that could increase to 61 million connected devices, including as many as 20,000 crosswalks, 60,000 school zones, 216,000 school buses and 45 million smartphones.
The first public demonstrations of the Spoke connected bicycle technology with the e-tron Sportback will be at the PeopleForBikes Bicycle Leadership Conference in Dana Point, California between March 21-23.