California-based engineer Faizal Ali was riding his motorcycle on a San Diego freeway one day and downshifted in order to slow for an exit. Because he didn’t actually apply the brakes, however, his brake light didn’t come on. As a result, the following car almost ran into him. That experience prompted him to partner with Jesse Szynal and designer Fausin Mdisa to create Vololights – it’s a rear lighting system that activates no matter what method the rider is using to decelerate.
Vololights is integrated into a user-installed rear license plate frame. Contained within that frame are eight red LEDs, a microprocessor, and a 3-axis accelerometer. A white LED also provides continuous illumination of the license plate.
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After being calibrated by the user upon its initial installation, Vololights will be able to detect any noteworthy decrease in speed, whether it’s caused by downshifting, engine braking, or simply application of the brake levers.
If the rate of deceleration indicates a normal braking scenario, the Vololights’ two rows of four red LEDs will flash alternately at a rate of two times per second – this just alerts drivers to the fact that the motorcycle is slowing. If the bike decelerates very quickly, however, the lights will flash five times a second, letting drivers know that they have to react fast in order to avoid an accident.
An algorithm running in the microprocessor is designed to filter out false alarms, such as when the rider is slowing the bike while descending steep hills.
The designers are now raising production funds for Vololights, on Kickstarter. A pledge of US$79 will get you a system, when and if they’re ready to go. More information is available in the pitch video below.