What you’ll learn:
- What’s causing V2X’s slow adoption?
- Stats showing that bicycles and eScooters are actually much more dangerous.
- Adding V2X beacons for greater safety.
Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication connects vehicles to other vehicles (V2V), infrastructure (V2I), motorcycles (V2M), and pedestrians (V2P) within wireless range for safety and mobility applications. It adds a new layer of confidence and certainty for drivers as it helps prevent car accidents.
However, the gap between V2X’s ability to enhance road safety and its slow market penetration is staggering. Several reasons can explain why inexpensive, effective, and mature technology isn’t installed in masses right now, but here I will focus on one: The general public’s lack of understanding of how V2X can make driving safer.
Most people feel confident when driving a car. Modern cars are safe, equipped with multiple advanced safety measures, decreasing the chances of a crash resulting in a fatality from 55% in the 1970s to 26% today. Vehicle-occupant fatality rate is exceptionally low, occurring less than once in 100 million miles.2 That doesn’t motivate people to spend money on yet another safety sensor.
I often face various driving situations where I tell myself, “Too bad V2X wasn’t available to alert me.” But most people aren’t aware and can’t be aware of the huge potential V2X has in store. Teaching the public the full span of V2X’s capabilities is challenging.
A sense of safety is entirely different when vulnerable road users are involved. In the U.S., the proportion of “outside the car” fatalities, meaning motorcyclists, pedestrians, pedal cyclists, and other non-occupants, has increased from a low of 20% in 1996 to a high of 34% in 2018.
In Europe, the popularity of bicycles is reflected in their portion of 8% of road fatalities. However, safety isn’t only about fatalities. Statistics from the U.K. show that for each fatality, around 40 people are seriously injured and an additional 200 approximately are lightly injured.5 Riders who are 10 to 15 years old are more at risk than other age groups.
eScooters are even more dangerous than bicycles,6 as they’re harder to balance. Ride sharing (eScooter or eBikes for rent on-demand), which is gaining popularity in many big cities around the world, amplifies the problem. These riders tend to be less experienced and less familiar with the specific rented equipment. Even worse is the lower likelihood of wearing a helmet.
Insurance of ride-sharing users is not sorted out.7 Ride-sharing companies are limiting their liability, and the rider’s auto or personal insurance doesn’t necessarily apply to eScooter usage. Ride-sharing companies should take improving the safety of eScooters as a prime target.
In many aspects, the same considerations are true for motorcycles. The number of fatalities is distressing; a constant 5,000 people or so in the U.S. per year, and a similar number in Europe. Per vehicle miles traveled, motorcyclists are about 28 times more likely to die in a traffic crash compared to people in passenger cars.8 Motorcycle companies are fully aware of the value of V2X and getting ready for installations. Yet, motorcyclists don’t create the demand for V2X, probably due to lack of awareness.
The issue is beyond statistics. Vulnerable road users feel unsafe. Parents are concerned when their kids and teenagers are taking the bike for a ride.
V2X can change that by assuring that bicycles and scooters get noticed by drivers. All it takes is a small and simple beacon transmitter to indicate location, speed, and trajectory. The vehicle’s communication device receives those transmissions and alerts the driver if a two-wheeler is at risk, even when the view of the two-wheelers is obstructed.
Riders of two-wheelers, lacking the sense of protection, will not hesitate to buy a V2X beacon. The same is true for most parents. Just look at the sheer size of the baby safety market. Parents are willing to spend great sums of money to protect their children.
Multiple stakeholders should act to make this a reality. Electronics manufacturers should develop a low-cost beacon for two-wheelers. Those should be pushed to market by aftermarket vendors and offered as factory installation by eBikes makers. Ride-sharing companies should equip their entire fleet with V2X, and municipalities should demand that from them. Motorcycle makers should accelerate their deployment plan. And carmakers (OEMs) should follow, with support and incentives from the regulatory authorities.
The long list of stakeholders seems discouraging, but it should be the other way around. It shows how many different stakeholders can potentially trigger the market. It’s enough that one stakeholder will insist to protect itself, for example, motorcyclists, ride-sharing users, or parents of kids riding bikes. The rest will follow. Leaders, please emerge.