Ford Makes Emoji Jacket to try and Help Cyclist Safety
We are now living – and driving – in a world where communication is crucial.
Ford of Europe is looking for ways to help drivers share the roads with cyclists, and the latest is an emoji jacket. Letting cyclists communicate with drivers using more than just a raised finger or a shaken fist.
Climate change means that it’s increasingly important to find alternative ways to get around. Without using fuel. Increasing traffic isn’t helping much either, meaning that a two-pedal commute looks more appealing every day. Governments are installing more bike lanes, but a cycle commute still means sharing the road with cars. And while cars have brake lights and signals (and a steel cage to protect you) cyclist communication means taking your hands off of the handlebars.
The new Emoji Jacket is a prototype, made by Ford in a partnership with language experts. “All sorts of problems on the road can stem from people not knowing what each other are doing,” said Dr. Neil Cohn PhD, assistant professor, Department of Communication and Cognition at Tilburg University, The Netherlands. “The speed of processing words and pictures is incredibly fast. You can understand words and pictures in under half a second. If street signs and effective single images are good enough to tell a driver to slow down to stop, they should also certainly be good enough to allow a driver to understand the desires and needs of cyclists, who are very vulnerable on the road.
Right now, the jacket can show one of three emojis – a happy, sad, or neutral face – left or right arrows, and a hazard signal. They’re all activated through a wireless remote mounted on the bike’s handlebars.
“We are now living – and driving – in a world where communication is crucial. But all too often between drivers and cyclists this just comes down to the beeping of a horn or a rude gesture. Cyclists usually have to take a hand off the handlebars to communicate. The Emoji Jacket uses a universally understood means of communication to show one way in which tensions could be eased – and we all learn to ‘Share The Road,” said Ford of Europe’s Emmanuel Lubrani.
Ford says that around 2,000 cyclists are killed on European roads every year, and that figure is an average of nearly 100 per year in Canada. The company feels that efforts like this, and other Share the Road initiatives that include a VR demonstration for drivers of what road use as a cyclist is like, could help reduce those numbers and make cycle commuting more helpful and less hazardous.