Ilumaware passive radar reflector to boost a cyclists presence to automobile accident avoidance systems

With automakers like Volvo and Jaguar adding and improving technology to reduce the likelihood of a car hitting a cyclist, things are moving in the right direction. But many other brands already have accident avoidance sensors built into their bumpers to sense an impending collision and help bring a vehicle to a stop regardless of whether the driver sees the danger or not.

Now, Mercury Wheels founder Chris Mogridge has developed a completely passive device that amplifies the “footprint” a bicycle returns to the automobile’s radar, making a bike seem as big as a car…

Ilumaware passive radar reflector to boost a cyclists presence to automobile accident avoidance systems Ilumaware passive radar reflector to boost a cyclists presence to automobile accident avoidance systems

Ilumaware is the new brand and name for the technology, but the product itself doesn’t have a name yet.

“It’s 100% passive, there are no batteries needed – it’s just an incredibly simple design, but it took a lot of work to get to this point,” Mogridge told us. “A lot of engineering went into figuring out the size, shape and angles, and the coating of the metal to make it work.”

Ilumaware passive radar reflector to boost a cyclists presence to automobile accident avoidance systems

It’s patent pending, and they say it’s already attracting attention from big industry players. They won’t say who, but it could find it’s way onto bikes and helmets in the near future.

Ilumaware passive radar reflector to boost a cyclists presence to automobile accident avoidance systems

Mogridge says it should be mounted where it’s unobstructed from a bumper’s view, so helmets are perfect. And it works great on the back of a seatpost or saddle bag. He’s even working on versions with blinky lights, which combines devices. The red plastic cover shown here is purely aesthetic, it doesn’t need it, and it could be any color. With the right industrial designer on the case, the piece could look downright fashionable.

Ilumaware passive radar reflector to boost a cyclists presence to automobile accident avoidance systems

More countries are mandating crash avoidance systems on commercial vehicles, so it’s plausible that the systems will make their way to more cars over the next decade, particularly with autonomous driving seeing so much development from Google and others. He’s looking for strategic partners to bring it to market on their own products, he’s just excited to bring the technology to the table.

Mogridge says he’s talking to a couple companies already and developing a second, complementary product that’ll be unveiled soon.

Ilumaware passive radar reflector to boost a cyclists presence to automobile accident avoidance systems


  1. anonymous on

    I don’t get it. It’s just a large retro reflector that works on radar. It’s basically the same as a single cell on those reflectors you throw away, except made from metal.

  2. anonymous on

    What’s not to get? It’s a simple device that works in conjunction with the direction safety features are going with cars to make cycling in traffic a little safer. If this was going to market now I would have already ordered one.

  3. LateSleeper on

    Good idea, once ACA radar becomes more common, but c’mon — it’s a corner reflector! Its performance was described in the AT&T Technical Journal back in 1947. “Patent pending” for what? Adding the light?

  4. chris on

    Great observations! But this isn’t your average corner reflector. A traditional “throw away” reflector does you no good in the eyes of a car’s crash avoidance system. The size, material and angles are way off.
    Every sq cm of the Ilumaware reflector is optimized to increase your radar cross section to the size of a car.
    In a nut shell the car will see you sooner and make the necessary measures to avoid a collision or at least decrease speed before impact. Statistically speaking, the lower the speed at impact will drastically decrease the seriousness of injury.

  5. Unravelled on

    Wouldn’t this be terrible on your helmet?

    Too high in relation to a bumper, and most obvious, your head moves so this reflector is not static which seems important considering the amount of “engineering” that went into its “shape”

  6. Brian S on

    Great idea. Similar to products used by small water craft to appear bigger to radar on the open ocean. It would be interesting if the return signal could have a defined signature for bicycles, like an ISO or IEEE specification. I’m guessing here because this is well outside my area of expertise, but I imagine vehicular radar systems in general are designed around avoiding other cars yet vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians behave very differently. Yes some are trying to auto detect cyclist; however, rather than guessing if an object is a bicycle a coded radar amplifier could explicitly indicate the sensed object is a bicycle and not a car or pedestrian. The collision avoidance systems could then be more fine tuned to avoid accidents with vehicles versus bicycles.

  7. Lego42 on

    If motor vehicles can detect and avoid striking people we’ll save countless lives. So far, systems have had some trouble detecting people on foot or on bikes. Whether it’s a reflector or a chip in cell phones, we need to push hard for whatever the engineers tell us is the best technology to let vehicles see us when drivers don’t.

  8. Ventruck on

    I find it really hard to believe it took massive engineering to figure this out, but I think attention turns to if they jumped on the patent too soon or at the right time. It could still be a while until crash avoidance systems become commonplace, not to mention at the extent where everyone will realize this is a mandatory thing.

    Maybe I’ll shoot myself in the foot for thinking out loud, but I also imagined a mobile data network-based alert system.

  9. Alex on

    Another issue I can see is the presence of a bubble level – meaning this probably requires very precise alignment to work well. So does it stop working if one is leaned over a bit while turning?

  10. anonymous on

    It’s a retroreflector. It reflects most of the radar back in the direction it came from as long as it hits the inside surface of one of the reflector surfaces. As mentioned by others, similar devices are used on boats.

    It’s seriously hard to believe the R&D claims. The shape is a standard retroreflector. Similar devices already work on this principle. Considering the angles are 90 degrees on a retroreflector, it’s puzzling that it was difficult for them to figure out the angles. If that’s the required size for the device to work effectively, I don’t think you’re going to see it on helmets and whatnot.

  11. fergus on

    I don’t understand, why do car drivers need radar to tell them there is cyclist on the road. Do we have blind people driving cars?

    It seems to give drivers an excuse to take even less care than usual. Oh he/she wasn’t picked up by the radar so I pulled out, or drove straight over them.

  12. JR Z on

    @fergus THANK YOU!! Can’t believe no one else said this! Not to mention Cyclists becoming complacent, because they have this Ilumaware widget, and getting themselves injure for letting down their gaurd.

    Also, if it’s mostly about the metal and can be used without the lense, why are a majority of the pictures of/with the lense?

  13. Dave B on

    ” I don’t understand, why do car drivers need radar to tell them there is cyclist on the road. Do we have blind people driving cars?”

    Yes, we do. At least in the sense that we have unaware, sleepy and distracted drivers that are “blind” to their surroundings. The huge number of accidents with other cars, pedestrians and bicyclists every year should clearly show that.

  14. Tim K on

    A lot of engineering did go into determining the size & shape. About 50 years ago. That said, there may have been some tweaks for the frequencies and relatively low power of avoidance radar.

    @Dave B & @ fergus – two words: Cell Phone.

    As others have said, the helmet seems to be the worst possible place – too high and is often moved so the reflector is not facing the source. I’d say the traffic side seat stay would be best. Static, at the right height, and the angle can be adjusted to provide the maximum reflectance for cars in the danger zone. If it were available today, I’d have one. Sounds like it’s time for a kickstarter.

  15. Psi Squared on

    @Alex: The nice thing about corner cubes is that they’re pretty insensitive to misalignment, which is to say that you can turn them quite a bit, and they will still return the incident beam to its origin.

  16. Phugoid on

    Might work well to have this sort of reflector integrated into a helmet (ie, embedded in the foam at the factory) instead of sticking it on the outside. Then you could ensure it’s placed somewhere it won’t do too much harm in a crash…

  17. craigsj on

    “The nice thing about corner cubes is that they’re pretty insensitive to misalignment…”

    The fact that people post comments like this shows that this is no new invention nor was there any engineering worked needed. This “technology” has been understood longer than most cyclists have been alive.

    Filing patents on this application to cycling is a disgusting cash grab assuming it would help increase safety at all. Such a grant of IP should be rejected in the best interests of the public.

  18. Robert W on

    What car makers need to develop is “VILDAR” or “Visible Light Detection and Ranging” which will allow drivers to detect and range objects in front of their vehicle with COTS technology like the Mk. 1 Eyeball enhanced with Block 34 improvements like the “Red Light Blinky” and “High Visibility Jersey”.

  19. SamSkjord on

    @AlanM They love bikes, so long as they’re made from steel/carbon/wood/bamboo/aluminium and do/don’t have thru-axles and use the correct 24/27.5/29/29+ wheelsize and do/don’t have disc brakes if a road bike.

    Circle one of the each available options and be a dick about everything else. Afterall, if they don’t see an immediate use for it in their current situation it’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist and is therefore pointless and whoever invented it is a bad person.

  20. i on

    Ok, show of hands: who isn’t aware that 99.9% of people utterly suck at driving? Who isn’t aware of a lot of new cars having forward crash mitigation available (i.e., car brakes automatically because the driver wasn’t paying attention)? Who’s willing to get hurt or killed to prove the point that drivers should pay more attention? Who thinks they can change others’ behavior (and if you think so, why haven’t you done it yet to make people better drivers?)

    So given all that, how is having a probably inexpensive device that triggers some cars’ active safety system that shouldn’t be necessary yet is, why does the existence of that bother you so much?
    I get it: people that make frequent use of crash mitigation probably shouldn’t be driving, but obviously that’s not the world we live in.

  21. bsimon on

    “A lot of engineering went into figuring out the size, shape and angles, and the coating of the metal to make it work.”

    Does it have to be metal?

    Integrating this with the newer ‘superflash’ led taillights would be a killer product. Sign me up. I look forward to the douchebag in the BMW trying to buzz my elbow having his/her car brake for them.

  22. waitasec on


    Does this mean if a car passes me, let’s say at slightly less than 3ft but still a reasonable urban distance, it’s going to sense a collision and slam on the brakes???

    Let the pranks begin..

  23. Jimmie on

    Mounting corner piece of metal to a helmet is the absolute worst thing I can think of putting on a helmet. When you do get hit, the last thing to go thru your mind will be this thing.

  24. LateSleeper on

    I actually thought it was a good idea, and I said so. It won’t provide a large safety benefit for another decade or so, at which point many more vehicles will have CA radar. (It will happen earlier in Europe.) I didn’t (and don’t) think there was a lot of black magic in building a corner reflector with given Radar Cross Section. The required formula is on page two of this document: Note that corner reflectors will work over about a 120 degree total angle, so the exact alignment on the bike isn’t that critical.

  25. sgt stiglitz on

    this is what they dropped on the moon, so we could fire a laser at it and measure distance. that was over half a century ago.

    90` angle corner reflector, as mentioned elsewhere… with a lens that “is purely aesthetic”

    really has me scratching my head as to the “a lot of engineering went into it” part.

  26. Mike S on

    Face it! People usually drive mentally disengaged, they are on automatic. Their-fore fundamental primal instincts ONLY apply. A car driver who passively sees a wide load truck coming up the road toward them the brain screams DANGER , and might even send out a shot of adrenalin and suddenly the person focuses. Seeing a biker, the driver brain says “No DANGER to Me” and no need to wake up. Purely self centered passive instinct, not personal.

    Blinking Red Flashers and Propane tanks strapped to your bike passively send the drivers brain the message “Wake Up DANGER”. The radar detector should help. Not that is wrong or right it just is. My goal is to be a never been hit biker not a biker who was right.


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