In addition to their "transparent" A-pillars and ghost car navigation, Jaguar Land Rover is now also researching technologies that use colors, sounds and touch inside the car to alert drivers to prevent accidents involving bicycles and motorcycles.
JLR says nearly 19,000 cyclists get killed or injured every year on UK roads alone, and that the number could drop significantly once their Bike Sense system becomes operational. The basic ideas is that sensors on the car detect when somebody is approaching us and can also identify it as a bicycle or a motorbike.
Here's how it works:
Rather than using a generic warning icon or sound, which takes time for the driver's brain to process, Bike Sense uses lights and sounds that the driver will instinctively associate with the potential danger.
To help the driver understand where the bike is in relation to their car, the audio system will make it sound as if a bicycle bell or motorbike horn is coming through the speaker nearest the bike, so the driver immediately understands the direction the cyclist is coming from.
If a bicycle or motorbike is coming up the road behind the car, Bike Sense will detect if it is overtaking or coming past the vehicle on the inside, and the top of the car seat will extend to 'tap' the driver on the left or right shoulder. The idea is that the driver will then instinctively look over that shoulder to identify the potential hazard.
As the cyclist gets closer to the car, a matrix of LED lights on the window sills, dashboard and windscreen pillars will glow amber and then red as the bike approaches. The movement of these red and amber lights across these surfaces will also highlight the direction the bike is taking.
If a group of cyclists, motorbikes or pedestrians were moving around the car on a busy urban street, the system would intelligently prioritise the nearest hazards so the driver would not be overwhelmed or distracted with light or sound.
This is all very clever, but let's just hope they also take the time to calibrate it correctly, because nothing is more annoying in a car than unnecessary beeping, lights and other warnings.
Also, if my car starts tapping my shoulder on a regular basis, I'll poke back.