As Ford Motor Company continues to rethink the rules of personal mobility, cycling as a mode of transport has become an activity of interest for the automaker. Last year, the company partnered with New York’s Motivate to launch Ford GoBike – a bicycle-sharing service in the San Francisco Bay area – and even before that, Ford filed a number of bicycle-related patent applications, including for an automatically-deploying kickstand and a lane-splitter detection system.
Now, the automaker is ready to show off its latest cycling-related development: a cyclist jacket with built-in LED turn indicators located within the sleeves. The jacket connects to a smartphone navigation app configured specially for cyclists – one that avoids incorporating busy roads and junctions into its routes – and provides route guidance by vibrating whichever sleeve corresponds with the direction of the turn they should take. Activating the sleeve LEDs to indicate an approaching turn is as easy as raising the appropriate arm.
Cyclists can even use audible and haptic interfaces to take calls, receive texts, and repeat navigation directions without ever having to take their eyes off the road to use the smartphone’s screen. A pair of bone conduction headphones helps with that, transmitting sound through the cyclist’s jaw to leave the ears unobstructed and free to hear engines, sirens, and other important road noises.
“At Ford, we want to help people – and goods – move more safely, confidently and freely around our cities,” says Project Lead Tom Thompson. “The smart jacket concept helps us to better understand how the different players that are a part of the urban mobility ecosystem – cyclists, cars, and pedestrians – can better co-exist through the application of smart technologies and how we can apply those learnings to future ideas.”
Currently, Ford’s new cyclist jacket is only a prototype, developed with cycling clothing outfit LUMO and mobility software company Tome, so don’t bother looking for it in stores. However, the very Ford Smart Mobility employees who created it are trial-testing the jacket on their daily commute to Ford’s London-based Smart Mobility Innovations offices, and additional features – such as hand gestures and voice commands to allow riders to access calls and messages – are already in the works.