Cycling vests designed for safety are –as a rule, it seems– always some hideous fluorescent color. No one but delivery guys and the least image-conscious commuters wear them, but maybe people will reconsider now that a new company has given the safety vest an IoT upgrade. The RoadwareZ vest replaces tacky reflective materials with signal LEDs, nixes hands-free controls in favor of voice controls, and introduces what could be a new concept in connected safety: GPS-linked automatic turn signals.
RoadwareZ isn’t the first cycling-focused wearable to offer built-in turn signals. We’ve seen the idea pop up before in other products, and generally speaking, its great for keeping riders visible — especially on group rides. The downside, however, is that most of these turn-signal gadgets function basically like those in a car: The turn signals are operated via a switch, or other almost-but-not-exactly hands-free method. That’s not the case with RoadwareZ.
RoadwareZ built-in mic isn’t just for hands-free calls. A simple word can activate the front and rear turn signals on the back of the vest. Digital Trends talked to Zena Krispin, one of RoadwareZ’s founders, to learn more about what makes the RoadwareZ vest special.
“You don’t want to take your hands off the wheel; you have enough going on out there,” Krispin tells us. “You want to be able to say left turn, right turn.” Using voice commands to operate the signals adds a layer of safety that simply can’t be matched by hand operated methods, no matter how integrated into the handlebars they might be.
But that’s not all — simply put your destination into the app and the directions will trigger the turn signals automatically as you follow the route. The automotive industry should take note: If this application could be applied to cars, we might look back on today and compare this to the vague time in the 1950’s when alternating blinkers became standard.
Krispin is convinced that cyclists are waiting for something like this. “We’ve had amazing feedback from everyone who’s seen it. My orthodontist just went crazy. Little did I know he’s an avid bike rider.”
If the turn-signal features aren’t enough, RoadwareZ’s creators are hard at work perfecting their vehicle warning system. Krispin tells us it’s called “Visible Me.” Riders using the RoadwareZ app will be alerted about passing vehicles; the same goes for drivers. This early warning system is handy for abandoned stretches of road or early morning rides: both the driver and the rider get a heads-up.
GPS mapping makes this possible and lets non-riders follow along on the app. “We had a lot of great feedback for that feature,” Krispin tells us. Worried parents are thrilled be able to keep an Internet eye on their children out riding. “They were extremely excited about being able to track the kids on the way to school.” The app also lets riders find each other, as in a group ride if people get separated (or someone makes a breakaway).
Roadwarez even offers an emergency monitoring service for a small subscription fee. With it, the vest detects falls and sends out a message to the first number on the contact list set within the vest’s accompanying app. If nobody answers, the app calls the next person on the list, and keeps trying until it reaches someone.
The company is prepping the first or basic version of the RoadwareZ vest for launch on Indiegogo. It will have the mic, turn signals, and GPS; all the important features (hands-free calling, voice activated- and GPS-linked automatic turn signals) are included. It will charge via standard USB, and run for about 10 hours.
With its smooth look that’s almost like a bullet-proof vest for the bike it seems like it would be a perfect fit for law enforcement. Krispin said, “We’re working with one or two government offices to have the vests made specially for them,” meaning that first responders could be equipped with RoadwareZ.
That’s just the beginning of course, as the upcoming RoadwareZ Pro version will reportedly include front and rear facing cameras. For those who invested in the basic vest, the company will offer a trade in or trade up program to grab the new kit. Further, the company plans to create a version for motorcyclists cut to fit over jackets and other biker gear. If you’re interested, sign up on the RoadwareZ website to catch the Indiegogo launch. Krispin says so far, “It’s been an amazing ride.”