More safety for cyclists through holistic environment detection in road traffic with modern V2X technologies

More and more people are using their bikes for short trips. Whether it is to get to work, sports or shopping, cycling in cities is booming. This has implications for traffic planning because safe bike lanes are rare. In parallel, a growing number of cyclists means at the same time an increase of accidents with cars on the road. Modern telematics technologies are contributing to greater road safety for cyclists and car drivers, as the expansion of infrastructure continues.

About two years ago, I was driving in my car through a crowded downtown area during the afternoon rush hour. Crowds of people ran across crowded sidewalks, a tram stopped at a station, people crossed the street in a hurry to catch it. Along with me, numerous vehicles waited at traffic lights w hile buses passed us in the separate bus lane – and, of course, cyclists. They also were driving on the street as well as in separate bike lanes – all at the same time and in a very confined space. I was fully concentrated because the situation was complex and required my full attention. Directly in front of me was another car. Next to me was a bike lane. The car in front of me was about to turn before the traffic light changed, while at once a cyclist approached the intersection at high speed. My first thought: ” Hopefully the car driver sees him!” But, he did not. The vehicle turned and overlooked the cyclist. Today, a so-called ghost bike commemorates the fatal accident and reminds others of how dangerous this intersection is.

In 2020, almost half of the traffic fatalities in the EU were vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians, or other two – wheeled vehicles like motorcyclists. At the same time, all countries in the European Union are pursuing a common goal: no more traffic fatalities. “Vision Zero” stands for the ambitious goal of reducing traffic accidents to a level of zero – a complex, tedious but quite importa nt process. Legislators in the countries are planning to oblige vehicle and truck manufacturers to install various safety features to increase road safety as standard in new vehicles. These includes for example blind spot assistants or hazard braking assistants. These technologies are intended to reduce accidents or prevent them altogether in the future.

This turns vehicles and trucks into so – called “rolling computers”. Many sensor and assistance systems together form an ” active safety system”. In combination with other systems such as airbags or deformation zones, which are known as the ” passive safety systems”, they protect vehicle or truck occupants. Thanks to the various technical systems, accidents can increasingly be avoided and the risk of injury to occupants

significantly reduced. But what about the safety of vulnerable road users (VRU)? Do they have active and passive safety systems? Does a bicycle have an automatic emergency brake? Does the cyclist have an airbag? Of course not.

While car manufacturers are incorporating more and more technolog ies into vehicles to increase safety, cyclists have not yet benefited from this. The protection of cyclists is essentially based on three factors:

  1. the cyclist must be seen by the car driver,
  2. the cyclist must be seen by the car itself,
  3. the cyclist must maintain traffic rules and cautious driving.

Only the third factor can be directly influenced by the cyclist himself. But how can the cyclist influence the other two facts? How can’t he cyclist actively participate in increasing road safety?

The answer is by applying technology that is already being used in vehicles and infrastructures around the world today. It is about technology that allows vehicles to see around corners, reliably and accurately exchanges data, allows automated vehicles to talk to each other, and connects all road users together in a way that also let everyone know what is happening on the road. We’re talking about vehicle- to- everything communication. In short, V2X is the technology buzzword that more and more people can relate to as the technology moves into their everyday lives.

As the name suggests, the focus is still on the term “vehicle” for now. At JOYNEXT, we believe that V2X could be a technology especially for the protection of vulnerable road users. It is based on radio communication. It allows participants to exchange relevant data in real time and without additional costs. For example, position and movement behaviour data can be made available to everyone in an anonymous manner. This means that road users will be able to draw attention of themselves to other road users. We consider V2X as an additional sensor to existing sensor systems such as radar, camera, ultrasonic, or LiDAR. V2X will bring supplemental benefits, such as increased coverage, overcoming blocked-view situations, area- relevance check, and weather- & time- of- day independence.

V2X offers the same benefits independent of weather, day, or night conditions. It is a perfect complement to other sensor technologies that struggle in changing conditions. V2X additionally improves situational awareness by providing a communication range of up to one kilometer even in complex and obstructed traffic situations. That’s far more than classic camera, radar or LiDAR systems cover in these situations.

V2X overcomes the problem of not knowing what is behind the next corner. Based on radio communication, it detects critical situations that cannot be detected with the human eye or other technologies at an early stage. The technology provides the ability to perform area- relevance checks based on the information it receives- predictive safety situational awareness will be enabled.

Thus, V2Xis a comprehensive solution to act as an active and passive safety system: It actively provides movement data to other road users, makes aware of them and therefore produces predictive warnings in case of potential collisions. This will lead to early reactions and mitigation of accidents   so to say passive safety system. Therefore, it reduces the likelihood as well as the impact of accidents and V2X becomes an enabler of Vision Zero.

With V2X, holistic and comprehensive environment detection can be realized. This includes all relevant objects or participants in the proximity, including blocked or invisible participants, and adds predictive awareness of what will happen in the next few seconds. V2X information will enable systems to predict future movements of participants based on data, forecast potential collisions, and act proactively to avoid potentially imminent collisions.

The integration of V2X systems is already taking place and has found its way onto the roads. However, we need to go ahead by providing V2X to other road users to enable a more comprehensive environmental detection and take the next step in road safety to achieve “Vision Zero”.

V2X will definitely help to avoid ghost bikes at intersections in the future.

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