BrakePack seeks to remedy the motorist/cyclist communication breakdown
The relationshipbetween cyclists and motorists can be a tense, frankly unpleasantaspect of the morning commute, but a new invention by Seattle-basedcompany Artefact (or more specifically its incubation program,Startefact) is aiming to patch things up and hopefully save somelives in the process. BrakePack is an LED-fitted smart backpackdesigned to make cyclists more visible to motorists,while signalling their intentions.
Cycling – especially forcommuters in urban environments – has undergone something of a renaissance inrecent years, but breakdowns in communication between bike riders andmotorists are leading to increasing numbers of fatalities as exposedcyclists navigate the congested, dangerous roads.
To combat the risks,cyclists have attempted to make themselves more visible to driversby donning high-visibility jackets and plastering their otherwisebeautiful bikes with reflective gear. Whilst BrakePack probably isn'tenough to completely replace such safety features, it wouldundoubtedly increase a cyclist's visibility on the road.
Alongside increasingvisibility and, you know, being a backpack, the BrakePack serves thepurpose of informing motorists both in front and behind the cyclistof his or her intentions. Signals can be communicated to the backpackvia a user-friendly smartphone app, that sends signals to thebackpack via Bluetooth LE.
The cyclist need onlychoose a destination via the app, and the way-finding function willautomatically manipulate the RGB LEDs, allowing the user to keep bothhands firmly planted on the bar and their eyes on the road. Forexample, when the app detects that the cyclist is coming up to a left turn, it will send a signal to light up a corresponding tab on the frontstraps of the backpack, and the rear left chevron.
If the user doesn'thave a preset destination in mind, the indicators can be manipulatedmanually by simply tapping one of the bag's shoulder straps. Thebackpack also sports an integrated accelerometer, that detects when abike is slowing and triggers red brake lights at the top and bottomof the bag. After use, the backpack can be charged via a wall-mountedbracket.
It is worth noting atthis point that BrakePack is not the only wearable for cyclists toconsider before setting out on the roads. Other offerings includeZackees cycling glove indicators and the similar wrist-worn Safe Turn Indicators.The difficulty with these systems is that the rider has to take theirhands off of the bike in order for them to be seen by motoristsbehind.
Furthermore, theconcept of a signalling backpack is not necessarily bleeding edge.Back in 2013 Gizmag covered the Safe Enjoy Interact Light (SEIL) cycling indication system. This prototype bag featured a similarindication system, albeit operated via a handlebar-mounted wirelesscontroller. The pack even allowed for custom text messages to bedisplayed for drivers behind to read (which probably wouldn't be agreat idea in practice).
Currently, the BrakePack is still in the prototype stage, withArtefact actively seeking partners for a commercial launch. With anyluck, it will be out on the road soon, letting you ride with a littlemore peace of mind.
Artefact's BrakePackcan be seen in use, in the video below.