Cars

Ford’s Emoji Jacket for cyclists aims to foster harmony among road users

Sometimes a flashing red light and fluorescent top just aren’t enough to keep a cyclist safe on busy city streets.

That’s why Ford has come up with the Emoji Jacket, a high-tech top that’s designed to ease tensions on the road by, in the company’s own words, “enabling riders to more easily and more clearly show drivers what their intentions are — and how they are feeling.”

The Emoji Jacket, which disappointingly is only a prototype at this stage, lets wearers display various symbols on their backs. It is powered by a device attached to the handlebars that has buttons for three different emoji (a smiley face, sad face, and straight face), as well as for left and right arrows and a hazard signal.

“Emoji have become a fundamental part of how we use language,” Dr. Neil Cohn Ph.D., assistant professor at the Department of Communication and Cognition at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, said in a release. “Whether used to convey facial expressions, humor, or sarcasm, they have become integral to our ability to express ourselves and quickly.”

Cohn added that the jacket, which is designed to highlight Ford’s Share the Road campaign aimed at fostering harmony among road users, allows riders to express their feelings and creates an emotional link between them and others on the road.

The key part of the system is its simplicity. While many more emoji are of course available, a device containing all of them would be impractical as it would end up being wider than the handlebars. Plus, faced with so much choice, the cyclist would be certain to crash as they perused the numerous available options instead of keeping their eyes on the road. A voice-activated system could solve this, though.

Ford: “Communication is crucial”

“We are now living — and driving — in a world where communication is crucial,” said Ford’s Emmanuel Lubrani. “But all too often between drivers and cyclists this just comes down to the beeping of a horn or a rude gesture.”

With that in mind, it would also be useful if the jacket could display an emoji that conveyed a call for help in the event of a gentle disagreement between road users developing into a full-on street brawl. A symbol showing a fist and a head would do the job.

We certainly appreciate the thought that has gone into the jacket and feel it could be popular if the automaker ever decides to commercialize it.

Ford has gained something of a reputation for coming up with quirky, innovative solutions not only for road users but for dog owners and mattress hogs, too.

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