, Professor, Mechanical Engineering
This research project is developing a smart warning system to enable safe and minimally intrusive interactions between motorists and bicycles. Interactions with bicycles are rare for a typical motorist, therefore safety-conscious drivers naturally focus on other motor vehicles in the roadway and may not become aware of the presence of a bicycle until it is too late. In contrast, interactions with motor vehicles are commonplace for a bicyclist. Furthermore, the bicyclist faces far greater consequences in an accident than a motorist. It is therefore appropriate for a collision-prevention system to be the responsibility of the cyclist. Continuous display of bright flashing lights or loud sounds may suffice to bring attention to the cyclist, but they may unnecessarily distract nearby motorists, or they may alarm passing drivers and cause them to move dangerously far from their own lane. The system under development guides motorists to pass bicycles with exactly as much distance as safety requires. Furthermore, it provides alerts only to those drivers that have a significant probability of collision with the bicycle. The system being developed incorporates a knowledge base of likely collision scenarios, thus minimizing false alarms. The system provides guidance cues to the bicyclist to ensure a safe and respectful response to motor vehicles. Human factors studies are being used to design an alert system that provides motorists with specific and effective audio-visual cues. These studies will also be used to ensure that cyclists do not respond to the enhanced security by becoming more reckless. It is expected that the technology developed in this project will enable motorists to interact with bicycles safely and with minimal intrusion. It will reduce the approximately 48,000 bicyclist injuries and 700 fatalities that occur every year.