Boing Boing - "I went to Crash Space, a hackerspace in Los Angeles, to see the cool things that its members have been working on. One of my favorite projects was Naim Busek's 'Bike Luminance'"
Hack A Day - "The part I was really interested in was his power. He spent tons of time reducing the power consumption"
Ever find yourself headed down the road, getting ready to turn on the next street and look back to see the confused face of a driver not sure where you are headed next (not even sure where they are going)? You are not sure if they are going to pass you on the left or fail to recognize your existence and attempt to occupy the same patch of asphalt you are about to turn towards. As it is now, you give a nod of your head and hope they can take the hint. Add the Bike Luminance kit into the equation: that same tilt of your head is detected by the sensing system, immediately waking it from a deep sleep ready to do its job and clearly signal your intent. The system detects your movement to the side or to the back and strobes bright strips of LEDs as turn signals or stop lights. It clearly announces your next action to the driver or other cyclists around you, eliminating uncertainty and letting them know where they need to be to keep clear.
When I started building motion reactive lighting systems, someone asked what types of applications they would enable. After a little brainstorming, an idea that really struck a chord was arm or head movement activated bicycle turn signals. There have been a number of one-off builds of bike signals, but this project will be developing a lighting system that can make the additional safety of clearly visible signals easily accessible to anyone braving traffic on a bike.
The best safety equipment is the equipment you are wearing when an accident occurs. Even better is the equipment that you can wear that might prevent the accident. That core idea has driven the design of motion activated signals to be intuitive and work "exactly the way you would expect them to". The goal has been to create a simple and easy to use system that works for everyday riding. The reliability and usability of the prototypes has validated that the system has achieved this.
The core of the bike luminance kit is a sensing system that sleeps in ultra low power mode waiting to be called into action when activated by your movement. When you get in from your ride, set the signaling helmet on a shelf and it will sit for up to two years using drawing a tiny amount of power. Just enough to sense when it is has been picked up so that it can activate and be ready for your next ride. With bright Red brake signals and Orange (or Blue) turn signals, the lights are clearly visible even in broad daylight. Since the system uses not a simple switch but an accelerometer connected to a micro-controller, it can perform the necessary digital signal processing (DSP) to ensure positive detection of your signaling while suppressing things like random shake from a bumpy road or the motion from turning your head around to look at things.
The system was initially prototyped to test and validate the basic concept using off the shelf parts. The initial proof of concept used an Arduino Pro Mini, with a FET driver shield and low voltage LEDs. While useful to start the development of motion detection algorithms, the Arduino based system could not be used to verify the ultra low power consumption and while possible it took a bit of hacking to run higher brightness and higher voltage LEDs.
To validate the rest of the system, it was necessary to design a custom Arduino shield that included ultra efficient voltage regulation, an ultra low power accelerometer and the necessary higher voltage LED drivers. After the circuit boards got back from fabrication, the low power components were installed and it was combined with an Arduino Fio but only after the careful use of a scalpel to surgically remove all connections to the already installed inefficient voltage regulator. With a little hacking of the Arduino software, the sleep current of this system was measured to be in the 10's of micro amps vs. the 100's of micro amps the standard Arduino system consumed. That decrease in sleep current is the difference between 2-3 months of operation for the off the shelf system and just short of 2 years for the new ultra low power design.
The next step in making this technology accessible needs your support and backing. The test systems that have been built work exceptionally and have validated the feasibility and value of this system. To produce a system that is easily usable by anyone, a few things still have to happen.
- A large manufacturing run of a single integrated controller board that includes all of the system components that have already been individually verified. To get reasonable component costing, the components need to be purchased in minimum quantities of 500-1000.
- The design and creation of molds for an injection molded enclosure that will protect the system from the elements, hold the signaling lighting solidly in place and hold the feedback lights positioned just within the peripheral vision.
- Weatherproofing and ruggedizing of all system components and connections for reliable daily use (and occasional abuse).
- Custom Red and Orange LED strips. The system is currently using readily available RGB strips but will be offered with RGB as a lighting option (but only for this kickstarter). Standard vehicle lighting is Red for brake lights and Orange (or optionally Red) for turn signals. Custom LED strips will be built with Red/Orange/Yellow. While the cost of each strip is not excessive to order strips with custom LED colors will require a large initial minimum order of 1000+ meters depending on the supplier who builds them.
With your backing these challenges can be overcome enabling the procurement of the initial components and get the necessary custom parts built to make this technology available to everyone for increased safety any time they ride. For your support you will be rewarded with early access to the motion reactive signaling system prior to it being available for purchase and you will have my heartfelt thanks for your support.
All of the bike luminance kits work out of the box as helmet signals and will ship by default with Red and Orange lighting to comply with vehicle lighting standards. Available only during this kickstarter, for support of $60 or more, you will have an additional lighting option of Red, Green and Blue. A word of warning on RGB. In general flashing Red/Blue warning lights are only permitted on police vehicles but is not clear on the use of Red/Blue/Green as signaling lights. I fully intend to ride with RGB signals and will certainly post an update if I find out more from reading regulations or from discussions with an officer when riding on the street. ;)
The signaling kit comes installed on a mesh helmet cover that can be stretched over any helmet in seconds and easily transferred between a variety of different helmets. While the final signals will use a lower resolution accelerometer, the rewards for this kickstarter will include the higher resolution option (available in the future as the higher priced hacker option). This gives you the option of just using straight out of the box as turn signals or to make it do even cooler things by hacking on it.
The signaling kit will be delivered programmed and ready to mount on your helmet. Buttons on the module are used to select operating modes and basic system configuration like system sensitivity. The helmet signaling kit includes the controller module, turn signals down both sides of the helmet and additional brake lighting on the back. The helmet signaling kit ships attached to a helmet cover for immediate use or is easily mounted directly to your helmet with the adhesive backed mounting Velcro included with the kit. Both color options use bright Red lights to indicate braking standard color scheme uses Orange for the turn signals while the RGB option uses Blue for the indicators.
Developing With (Hacking) the Kit
Signal anything you want or just light up for the pure joy of it! In the future the hacking version will be available as an upgrade from the basic model but, for the duration of this kickstart, all rewards will be upgraded to the more advanced hacker electronics for no additional contribution! The hacker electronics are designed around a high resolution accelerometer with the programming and debugging interfaces easily accessible. The hacker electronics are over qualified to run the turn signals but give you the option of modifying any of the rewards to create your own unique lighting displays. The connections to the strips are mounted to make swapping alternative lighting options onto the control unit a straight forward task if you are comfortable with some basic soldering. The software is built with open source tools so hacking and development is accessible to everyone. Hacking guides will be released with examples of what the system is capable of and hopefully will inspire ideas for how you will hack it.
I have to thank all of my friends at Crashspace for their support and encouragement with a special thanks to Alex for mixing the music used for the video.