'Share the road' - new VR tech could help inconsiderate motorists, cyclists get along

<i>Image: The News Market</i>
<i>Image: The News Market</i>

As increasing numbers of motorists and cyclists share the roads, flashpoints between road users are are an all-too frequent sight in cities.

While infrastructure that keeps different road users apart struggles to keep pace,  a new campaign designed to help improve safety and reduce pollution and congestion.

'Share The Road' seeks to foster harmony between road users and underlines the company’s belief that enabling more people to cycle safely, especially for short journeys, benefits everyone.

A look at inconsiderate drivers

Ford has produced a virtual reality experience called 'WheelSwap', enabling motorists and cyclists to see how inconsiderate driving and riding can be at the least hair-raising –and potentially fatal – for their fellow road users.

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Initial studies show that after undergoing the experience, nearly all participants said they would change their behaviour.

A different point of view

‘WheelSwap’, enables motorists to see from a cyclist’s point of view how scary it can be when drivers overtake too closely, swerve without indicating and open car doors without checking for bikes.

 Another version enables cyclists to experience what it is like for drivers when they jump red lights, cycle down one-way streets the wrong way and swerve unexpectedly.

More than 1200 people took part in the initial research across five European countries, with 70% of those who experienced ‘WheelSwap’ displaying greater empathy to their driving and cycling counterparts after watching the film, compared with those who had not.

A change in behaviour

Furthermore, 91% planned to change their on-road habits; and just two weeks after experiencing ‘WheelSwap’, 60% had changed their behaviour on their day-to-day travels.

Ford is now integrating the virtual reality experience into its free driver training program for 17 to 24-year-olds, Ford Driving Skills for Life.

                                                                       Image: The News Market

Nearly $20 million has been committed to Ford Driving Skills for Life in Europe through the program since 2013 for free, hands-on classes that also cover hazard recognition, vehicle handling, and speed and space management.

The company is also making the ‘WheelSwap’ experiences available on YouTube along with useful tips for how to stay safe on the road. 

“There is no more effective means of appreciating someone else’s point of view than stepping into their shoes, or in this case, on to their pedals. Empathy is an immensely powerful emotion,” said behavioural scientist Dan Berry who helped devise the experiment.

Last month, Ford launched the all-new Focus with technology that can detect cyclists in or near the road ahead, or who may cross the vehicle’s path. Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection automatically applies the brakes if it detects a potential collision and the driver does not respond to warnings.

You can find more information regarding ‘Share The Road’ here: www.ford.co.uk/share-the-road

                                                                        Image: The News Market

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