Sneak Peek: Radar Powered Vehicle Avoidance from Backtracker

Backtracker radar 1

Last week it was lasers, now the bicycle industry looks to be entering into the world of radar. At least, once iKubu officially introduces their new Backtracker, that is. Designed by the Stellenbosch, South African engineering team, Backtracker is a soon to be released product that brings bicycling safety to futuristic new heights. You’ll have to wait for the official launch for all of the details, but you can find out how the Backtracker works after the jump…

Backtracker radar 2

Backtracker radar 3

Thanks to their background in computer vision, rapid prototyping, and commercial radar systems, iKubu was able to package an entire radar detection system into a rear unit not much larger than a standard rear light. The radar is said to be able to detect vehicles up to 140m (459 ft) away, and alerts you to their presence through the handlebar mounted front unit. As the vehicle approaches, Backtracker provides three important functions – it begins to flash the rear light more rapidly to alert the car of your presence, and it informs you of both the car’s distance and speed relative to you.

All in all, it seems like a pretty trick little system and if it improves riders’ safety, we’re all for it. Pricing and availability is to be determined, but iKubu plans on launching the Backtracker in the next few weeks through a crowd funding campaign. You can sign up for more details here, and check out the videos below of the Backtracker in action.

Depending on the price, is this something you would use?

Comments

Paul in VA - 06/05/14 - 11:21am

Yes!

i - 06/05/14 - 11:26am

depending on price is the key word. Also you need to be able to tune the sensitivity; if it alerts every time there’s a car within 140m, it’ll be going off 100% of the time, I don’t think I’ve ever not had a car within that distance.
approach speed would be more interesting to me than distance; even if a car is right behind me, if they know how to drive there’s no need for me to alter my riding at all. On the other hand, if they are 100m back but closing on me at 50mph, that’s something I’d like to know about, and not something I could easily detect by sound or their headlights.

Gunnstein - 06/05/14 - 11:37am

What “i” said. And this should be integrated with smart glasses. Down on the bars I’ll either not see it, or see it but not see that major pothole ahead. Glad for tech improvements like this, but for the time being I’ll keep using my eyeglass mirror. Nerdy but works perfectly.

taylor - 06/05/14 - 12:24pm

Very cool concept. but we will have to wait on the price.

I agree with “I” on being able to adjust the settings as to when to alert you.

jones - 06/05/14 - 12:59pm

well the most important thing is road safety so with this new invetion it should help cyclists but like “i” said the price is most important… but i can say that if these went on retail sale i would buy myself 1 at a reasonable price

Adam2 - 06/05/14 - 1:32pm

Or, you could do a shoulder check for free…

RUSTYDOGG - 06/05/14 - 2:10pm

I guess I’m not sure what it is supposed to actually do for you. How do you interpret whats really going on back there. brace for impact? I can’t help but think its just one more thing to keep your focus and attention from the task at hand.
We already know we put our lives in the hands of strangers every time we go out. We’re already riding the white line.
If anything it should just be a small proximity triggered camera that captures images and data. Call it the bike black box.

Rico - 06/05/14 - 2:38pm

It’s a great idea imo. I don’t care about price as much as quality. Make it as small as possible and consider making it aero, or at least fit to the post or saddle in such a way that it’s as aero as possible. I’m sure we all (road bikers) have that knot in the upper left back near the neck from shoulder checking and chatting. And we will keep riding and checking or track checking even if it’s bad. This thing could be a sweet relief. I think it also depends on the roads, speeds, level of congestion, et., but in my area this thing would be handy on long solo rides.

Doug B - 06/05/14 - 3:32pm

Would need to somehow show if that vehicle was pulling out or heading for impact, so you could hopefully take avoidance action. But if it just flashes at you each time a car is pulling round then its not telling you much more than you can hear.

David - 06/05/14 - 3:39pm

If this triggers driver’s radar detectors it would be an added bonus.

Hoshie99 - 06/05/14 - 4:27pm

I think the a similar system for a car would prevent more accidents. Interesting.

j

David - 06/05/14 - 5:52pm

@Hoshie99

There is an interesting system for cars using transponders that broadcast position and other info to nearby vehicles. If a vehicle several cars ahead brakes suddenly, your car will get a warning. Of course it will only work if every car has it, so it will be mandatory in all new cars starting around 2017.

Me - 06/05/14 - 7:28pm

Intergrate it into a cycling computer; your bars will start to look pretty crampt with both plus your bell and front light and go pro and …….

stu99dwn - 06/05/14 - 8:29pm

This just lets the sheep (cyclist) know there’s a wolf coming…we already know that we dance with wolves all the time…we need something to tell the wolf to back off..radar is to wide for this application it would pick upo everything. If anything I would like to know if a car was in the bike lane behind me but even then could you get out the way in time? IMO we need something in the car to alert drivers more than vis versa.

Franz - 06/06/14 - 12:49am

This device actually has an Open API, exposed through Bluetooth…so you’ll be able to create your own mobile interface or connect to a Bluetooth headset!

Carinus - 06/06/14 - 2:29am

This tool has the ability to talk with anything…..such as Google glass, your phone, your existing bar-top preference….shout at iKubu if you’d like to here more about their API on Backtracker.

Thanks for comments – love it!

Nomad - 06/06/14 - 3:01am

What I like most is that it alerts the motorist with the pulsing light! That light can be a lot brighter than most bicycle lights…because it’s only working when needed!!

DW - 06/06/14 - 3:40am

Very interesting concept. Not only for avid cyclist, but also newbies and kids with less experience.

What would you consider to be a reasonable price on a safety feature like this?

Desertpinstripe - 06/06/14 - 6:23am

I’d like to have a better idea how far back a car is relative to me. Ever had a Prius sneak up on you? Or heard a big diesel approach and thought it must be right on top of you, only to have its rumble grow ever more thunderous? A mirror might work… if you are not driven insane by something jittering away at the edge of your vision. For these reasons I would be happy to give this radar contraption a try.

Hsmr - 06/06/14 - 7:15am

I think its a nifty new idea. Something to enhance our field of “vision” and perception while riding. Accidents happen and I by no means think they are saying this device will prevent that, but rather give you an idea of potential danger coming from behind. Especially for newbies and kids who has very little experience on the road.

What would be an acceptable price for a safety feature like this?

Mr C. - 06/06/14 - 7:41am

WOW! As a daily, year round commuter you bet I would want one of these! What a GREAT idea! How about as well as giving a warning it ‘tells’ my iPhone (mounted on the ‘bars) to show me what is approaching? Very cool idea!!

Kickstarter it up, I’m in!

Blaubart - 06/06/14 - 9:00am

I guess a good thing for depth or bikers hearing music during their ride. But probably useless for a London commuter like me: it wouldn’t stop flashing fast.

B - 06/06/14 - 9:58am

Cool idea, but the increasingly rapid flashing seems like a nightmare re: target fixation.

Carinus - 06/06/14 - 1:33pm

Let’s try this: what should it crowd-sell for? :)

Andrew Stackhouse - 06/08/14 - 1:02pm

I want one tuned for detecting bears

Andreas - 06/08/14 - 2:23pm

A mirror is more simple and usefull. I use it om all my biketrips, my racebike and my computer bike. Would you drive car without a mirror?

Carinus - 06/09/14 - 5:43am

@B: being close to the product, but not the inventor, what struck me in using it was the peripheral nature for the rider…meaning I don’t really notice the busy-ness of the lighting until the green status change to red – which means something is close, and meaning business!

@Andreas: The benefit of this a an enhanced rear-view mirror, where distance doesn’t have to be guessed, neither velocity.

Meanwhile, while you move towards the safety of the kerb, or dirt, or whatever is your safest bet, the driver has been continuously notified of YOUR presence.

Have you signed up yet?

Stay well.

Fritz - 06/18/14 - 3:41pm

This is brilliant.
Think of a narrow tar road with the wind in your ears and some glass or stones forcing you to the middle…
,or 2 of us riding next to each other with a vehicle coming from the front. You hardly ever hear the smaller car from the back if there is a truck close to you.
This will not replace looking over you shoulder, but will make sure that you don’t miss the one time it could be important.
I will pay 300 dollar if it reduces the risk of a hit by 1%, and buy my wife one for her next birthday;-)

Carinus - 06/20/14 - 2:53pm

Hi Fritz

We are launching our crowdfunding – along with Dragon Innovations, same guys who brought the Hammerhead – next week, Wednesday. USD199.00.

Carinus

Johan - 06/27/14 - 3:03am

I just ordered mine! And I’m in total agreement with Fritz. Where I live, the most scenic roads are the narrowest… and I believe it will address those lingering fears on those kinds of roads… I can’t wait to experience it!

E - 07/01/14 - 11:09am

I like the rear blinky that changes as cars get closer. The handlebar component, however, is unnecessary unless you are hearing impaired. I can judge by sound whether a car is approaching, how fast, etc. How fast they are coming up behind me is not really relevant though – it’s whether they actually see me and are moving over to pass me. The handlebar component of this product will only serve as a distraction from careful cycling while a car is overtaking you.

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