A research group in Italy has debuted a 5G transmitter that may allow cars, bicycles, stoplights and everything else involved in city traffic to talk to each other and thereby avoid collisions. While the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA) and the LINKS Foundation envision a wired world that doesn’t exist yet, their demo in Turin last year connected a bicycle to a car and warned the driver that a bicyclist was directly ahead so he could slow down and give the cyclist more room.
The technology, known as “Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything” (C-V2X), is ready for deployment and allows vehicles to communicate directly with each other, with their surroundings and with the cloud, a 5GAA news release says.
The New York Times says C-V2X technology can bolster existing safety measures such as radar devices for bicycles and advanced driver assistance safety systems in high-end cars and help reduce crashes involving cyclists by up to 35 percent.
This depends on the widespread adoption of super-fast 5G networks – the fifth generation of wireless networking technology – which could finally be on the horizon, according to Wired magazine.
The Increased Dangers of Riding on Two Wheels
Many New Yorkers have heard the news about increased use of bicycles in the City during the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise in bicycle accident injuries and deaths. In a single week in March, cyclist injuries were up 43 percent compared to the same week in 2019, according to StreetsBlog NYC. This followed a January in which the total number of injuries to bikers increased by 22 percent compared with the same time period the year before.
On September 10, a 29-year-old-bicyclist who was hit by a car as he was trying to cross Ocean Parkway by Avenue N became the fourth bicyclist struck and killed in NYC during that month, according to Spectrum’s NY 1.
Before the pandemic, bicycle fatalities in New York nearly tripled from 10 in 2018 to 29 last year, according to The Times. This year, at least 14 people on bicycles have been killed.
With more bikes sharing New York City streets with cars, buses and trucks, there’s more pressure to find ways to make the roads safer for everyone, The Times says. Cycling advocates say the best safety measures keep bicyclists and motor vehicles apart and are pushing for more dedicated bike lanes.
But safety researchers are increasingly looking to technology for answers.
Bikes, Cars, City Streets – Can’t We All Talk and Get Along?
The tech solution envisions 5G allowing just about every device to connect with one another in nearly real time. This goes well beyond mobile phones controlling home thermostats or lighting systems. Wired magazine said recently, “5G could help autonomous cars communicate not only with one other – a kind of, ‘Hey, on your left!’ set of exchanges – but also, someday, roads, lights, parking meters, and signals.”
C-V2X communications between vehicles could prevent accidents at dangerous intersections, the 5GAA said. It could be built into infrastructure to protect vulnerable road users by alerting drivers about a bicyclist or pedestrian at a crossing. The bicyclist or pedestrian would be detected via their smartphone, and surrounding vehicles would be warned.
If an accident did occur, emergency services would be able to visualize the situation live using the on-board cameras of surrounding vehicles, which would improve response times and provide emergency responders situational awareness prior to arriving at the crash scene.
Is the technological future we were always promised for the 21st century finally upon us? The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a plan to make additional spectrum available for 5G services and is encouraging the private sector to invest in 5G networks. It has held several auctions for 5G spectrum, and the Trump Administration said in August it would sell off more sections of the mid-band spectrum to spur 5G adoption.
In New York City, City government has been working to be ready for 5G and Verizon announced in September that its 5G service will reach areas of uptown, midtown, and downtown Manhattan, along with select parts of Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens.
Unfortunately, there’s more necessary to ensure car and bicycle safety than simply a fast connection. “It can’t just be, ‘Hi, I’m a bike,’” Jake Sigal, the chief executive of Tome Software and a founding member of the Bicycle-to-Vehicle Executive Advisory Board, told The Times.
For real car and bicycle safety, technology will have to judge a bike’s speed, turning radius and maximum acceleration and braking as part of the overall data needed to help predict a cyclist’s path.
The visual noise of a New York City street is another concern. “A Manhattan avenue could generate an overwhelming surge of warnings and alerts,” The Times says. “So, when to warn drivers may be just as critical as what to warn them about.”
Think Safety and Accountability as We Wait for Tech to Save Us
As multiple groups continue to work on tech solutions for safe streets, those of us who ride bikes and/or drive alongside them need to rely on traditional safety measures. Motorists need to look twice and, cyclists need to do everything possible to make themselves more visible, such as wearing bright colors, having flashing lights on the bicycle and using hand signals.
Holding negligent drivers accountable when they cause accidents also spreads the message about the need to drive safely. When bicyclists are injured by careless drivers, the motorists should be held accountable.
If you have been seriously injured in a bicycle or pedestrian accident in New York City that was a driver’s fault, a personal injury lawyer at David Resnick & Associates, P.C., may be able to help you maximize the compensation available through an insurance claim. Before signing or agreeing to anything offered by an insurance adjustor, call us at (212) 279-2000 or contact us online to schedule a free, no-obligation discussion of how we may be able to help you.