Smartphone sends signals
I recently spoke with Brent Massey, CEO and co-founder of Ridar Systems LLC. Massey’s company has developed a cloud-based mobile technology to alert drivers [of cars] when riders [of motorcycles & bicycles] are close by.
The system that connects cycles and bikes with four-wheel vehicles is fairly simple and straightforward.
Riders and drivers simply need a smartphone (Android or iOS), cellular signals (3G, 4G, LTE), and a Ridar app downloaded from an app store or an insurance company.
Once the vehicle exceeds 10 mph, the Ridar Systems launches its app in background, alerts drivers if a rider is approaching from behind, in front of or in a blind-spot. It can override phone calls, music, or turn-by-turn mapping if a collision is imminent.
Meanwhile, Ridar Systems uses gyroscopic data generated by a smartphone to detect a “motorcycle or bicycle lean,” and identifies the device as a “rider.”
(Source: Ridar Systems)
The rider’s smartphone then starts sending to the cloud simple coordinates – not map data – every split second via cellular. As the rider moves along, the new data constantly updates, keeping data usage at a minimum and saving power to prolong battery life, explained Massey.
Ridar Systems has developed predictive software that runs in the cloud. The cloud uses cellular signals sent from vehicles and motorcycles/bicycles every split second, calculates location, direction and speed information for each, generates a “five-second” heads up and sends out the notification.
The whole process — from a smartphone sending data via a cellular network to a cell tower, then to the cloud system running predictive software, determines any imminent danger, sends an alert to the cell tower and finally to a smartphone — takes about 100 milliseconds. That’s the latency of Ridar Systems.
Massey acknowledged, “Our ‘real-time’ system is four times slower than V2V technology — which is typically 25 to 30 milliseconds. But when our system is applied to the real world, 100 milliseconds is pretty fast.”
The startup’s technology is designed to offer “fuzzy accuracy,” instead of pinning down the exact location of every vehicle, explained Massey. The idea behind Ridar System is to give both riders and drivers a good-enough “five-second heads up.”
Of course, this begs the question of what happens when a smartphone loses its signal. In any cellular network-based communication systems, a clear drawback is the network itself, which can become the single point of failure.
However, having asked Massey all these questions, I was struck by the simplicity of Ridar System. Everyone has a smartphone in his pocket these days, and if there’s a way to use it as a beacon to warn drivers of imminent collisions, why not use it?
It’s easy to criticize any system for not being perfect. Just as the automotive and communication industries have done so with DSRC, we may argue – indefinitely — about how Ridar Systems should have backup signals, build connectivity that suffers no latency, design a system that tells us dead-on accuracy, etc.
Yes, we can do that — but to what end?
I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that the tech community today sometimes spends more time than necessary quibbling over “wedge issues.”
Drue Freeman, an independent consultant, advisor, investor and a well-known V2X advocate, told me recently that he sees the emergence of a “hybrid model” — of cellular technology and V2X communication.
When I asked for an example, he introduced me to Ridar Systems. It turns out Freeman works with the startup.
Freeman said, “In the short term, I see opportunities to leverage existing cellular technology to enhance V2X in order to protect vulnerable road users like bicyclists.”
In short, not every debate has to be an either-or between cellular and DSRC. Freeman said, “I think there are opportunities for hybrid approaches, even before we see a deployment around C-V2X.”
Meanwhile, the 2017 Cadillac CTS is getting V2V technology. Sedans will be outfitted with DSRC short-range radio communication devices to transmit and receive simple messages, including vehicles’ GPS location, speed and heading. Those messages are sent 1,000 times a second up to about 1,000 feet.
Of course, we can argue that we need at least 10,000 of these V2V vehicles on the road before we save any lives.
True enough. But you have to start somewhere.
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times