Tome, Trek, Ford Collaborate on Bike-to-Vehicle Safety Standards

Last fall, Royal Oak, MI-based software startup Tome teamed up with Ford and Wisconsin’s Trek to work on B2V (bike-to-vehicle) technology that will help self-driving cars to better perceive cyclists on the road. Tome CEO Jake Sigal, a passionate cyclist who spends much of his free time biking, says teaching cars to see and anticipate cyclists, who behave very differently from pedestrians, is one of the toughest computer vision problems to crack.

That’s why Tome, Trek, and Ford have launched a new advisory board to leverage the expertise of cycling and automotive leaders and create cross-industry B2V safety standards. As federal safety regulations for autonomous vehicles continue to take shape in Congress—nothing formal has been established yet—industry players are taking it upon themselves to be proactive, Sigal says.

“Our mission is to make it safe for all cyclists,” he explains. “The board provides input and advice from the cycling industry. Communication is so important; putting people in the room together allows us to address deeper issues. It’s more about getting safety standards right before there are mandates, and having it be industry-led.”

A few months ago, Tome and its partners began work on proof-of-concept technology designed to reduce the number of bicycle-vehicle collisions. Tome engineers have so far concentrated their efforts on mapping and infrastructure, using artificial intelligence to discover safety measures at specific roadway locations considered vulnerable, and are working with automotive engineers and smart city advocates to develop safety standards.

The project is still in the research and development phase, Sigal says, and the group expects to run pilots before putting anything into production. “If we do our jobs well, more areas will feel comfortable and cyclists will have more options. Vehicles will be able to see around corners. Cyclists need to be seen, but recognized as bikes and not blinking lights.”

Sigal likes to describe bikers as “unicorns” because they can go faster than the surrounding traffic in urban environments, but tend to be slower than traffic in rural areas. That makes designing a sensing platform able to anticipate and detect bike-riders very tricky. Another complication, he says, is that the cycling industry “doesn’t speak Detroit.” Because he’s got connections in both the cycling and automotive tech worlds, Sigal feels he’s in a unique position to act as a conduit to develop these safety standards.

“People need to ride to work because that’s their mode of transportation, not necessarily because it’s fun—the bike is their mobility product,” Sigal continues. “You can’t count on that person to buy a special app or equipment. Protecting those riders is a priority for those of us working on B2V. [Auto manufacturers] are getting it and doing a really good job of being innovative. For them to come together shows how serious the issue is.”

In addition to Tome, Trek, and Ford, other founding members of the executive advisory board include Accell North America, Bosch, DOREL Sports, Giant Bicycles, Orbea, Shimano, Specialized, SRAM, Stages Cycling, and Quality Bicycle Parts.

The advent of the mobility industry has seen historically fierce competitors team up for big partnerships, and this project is no different—it represents the first time in cycling history that competitors Trek, Specialized, and Giant are collaborating, Sigal says.

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