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Garmin Acquires iKubu, Designer of Backtracker – Radar Equipped Garmins on the Horizon?

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Imagine a device that alerted you when cars were approaching and could indicate how fast they were moving? Not only that but as the vehicles approached you on your bike, your tail light would automatically change in pattern to warn motorist of your presence. It may sound like something out of a scifi movie, but that’s exactly what iKubu has been working on. When we first learned about the Backtracker in June of 2014, the company had working prototypes and have since been working toward bringing it to production.

We’re not sure if they saw this coming, but it was just announced that the Stellenbosch, South African based has been acquired by Garmin. Whether this means Garmin will continue with the Backtracker design remains to be seen, but the company seems particularly interested in the idea of a low power radar system with Garmin’s president and CEO Cliff Pemble stating,

“iKubu has found a way to implement short-range radar into a low-power system that addresses a common concern among cyclists – identifying potential hazards that are approaching them from behind. We are delighted to add this technology to the Garmin portfolio.”

The announcement comes shortly after Garmin had a big showing at CES with an expanded range of wearable electronics. At this rate, it won’t be long until Garmin could offer a fully connected cycling experience, with everything controlled from your wrist or your handlebar…

From Garmin:

SCHAFFHAUSEN, Switzerland & STELLENBOSCH, South Africa–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Garmin Ltd. (NASDAQ: GRMN) today announced that it has acquired the assets of iKubu (Pty) Ltd., a privately-held designer of computer vision and radar systems for the cycling market.

iKubu was in the final stages of developing the Backtracker low-energy bike radar, a device that provides unparalleled situational awareness by giving the cyclist the speed and distance of vehicles that are approaching from behind. The road is scanned by a rear-facing radar module that also doubles as a dynamically flashing caution light, and the information is sent wirelessly to a handlebar-mounted head unit.

“iKubu has found a way to implement short-range radar into a low-power system that addresses a common concern among cyclists – identifying potential hazards that are approaching them from behind,” said Cliff Pemble, Garmin’s president and CEO. “We are delighted to add this technology to the Garmin portfolio.”

“Garmin is a technological leader among cyclists, and we are looking forward to integrating our technology and expertise into their outstanding products,” said Franz Struwig, managing director of iKubu. “Garmin gives us the resources to develop, bring to market, and showcase our products that we otherwise would not have.”

Most of the former employees of iKubu will become employees of Garmin’s existing subsidiary in South Africa and will continue to operate primarily as a research and development center based in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Financial terms of the acquisition will not be released.

For 25 years, Garmin has pioneered new GPS navigation and wireless devices and applications that are designed for people who live an active lifestyle. Garmin serves five primary business units, including automotive, aviation, fitness, marine, and outdoor recreation. For more information, visit Garmin’s virtual pressroom at garmin.com/newsroom, contact the Media Relations department at 913-397-8200, or follow us at facebook.com/garmin, twitter.com/garmin, or youtube.com/garmin.

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charango
charango
8 years ago

All about the implementation, but this could be a really great idea. A lot more useful than connecting my Garmin to my smartphone.

Gunnstein
Gunnstein
8 years ago

Radar and rear view cameras, both rather expensive ways to avoid being seen as nerdy for using a plain old mirror. (Admittedly, the light alerting approaching vehicles could be useful, and rear facing video recorders too.)

David
David
8 years ago

Can the flashing proximity alarm be set to configure a flash-bang off the back of the bike?

Peter
Peter
8 years ago

All of this technology to make cycling ‘safer’ makes me shake my head. Being safe means being alert, cautious, calm, predictable, patient, respectful and obedient to the law among many other important attributes. Computers are none of these. Computers don’t save lives, people save lives and relying on a computer to exhibit the aforementioned attributes for us lets us become lazy. Drivers are already being conditioned to rely on audible beeps to be alerted to cyclists rather than turning their neck and/or being any of those attributes. And cyclist who think knowing the speed and distance of possible incoming cars rather than staying on a bike lane constantly checking their surroundings is tragedy waiting to happen. Use those seconds with your head down to get an accurate view of the road around you by turning your head! I even object to non computing ‘safety devices’ for cyclists like mirrors. Turn your head around and get the full view! Also, if I am going to pass I don’t know if you saw me or not and if you are planning on reacting at some point. And then while you try to calculate my speed and eta – which you can’t – while fixed on the mirror, you could end up smashing into something anyway. There are no automated and digital shortcuts around what has been marketed to us as the inconvenience of staying safe. False security will always cost something. Ok, rant over! And get rid of those mirrors please 🙂

SamSkjord
8 years ago

>get an accurate view of the road around you by turning your head!

Oh, sorry, some of us have serious neck injuries that make looking over your shoulder rather painful, guess I’ll stick to walking instead of finding a solution that would mean I could know if there was anything approaching while riding along (obviously I still check before manoeuvring).

But it’s good to know that if it’s not applicable to your usage requirements it’s pointless.

Gunnstein
Gunnstein
8 years ago

Peter, I guess you have never tried riding with a mirror. Or at least not long enough to get used to it. Or you tried a really bad one. Having used a small eyeglass-mounted mirror for years I know it’s made my riding a lot safer. No silent cars can sneak up and surprise me anymore. Glancing forwards and backwards and forwards again is a lot faster than turning your head. I can perfectly well judge speed and eta of approaching cars. When I look in the mirror, my periphery vision still shows me what’s happening up front. Turning my head a few degrees to each side I can scan the full view behind me, left and right and directly behind. I have a better overview, all the time.

As for showing drivers behind me that I have seen them – I sometimes do it if they are very slow to pass, but there is mostly no point. Do you expect a tractor driver or scooter driver to do it? It’s your responsibility as a driver to pass me safely, whether I’ve seen you or not. If you think I haven’t seen you, you’ll have to give me extra room when you pass – safer for me.

randall
randall
8 years ago

Another thing this would allow are lights that are bright to a point of being battery consumption prohibitive. If a tail-light could sense approaching traffic and ramp its brightness according to some metric, that would be useful.

It would also be great with a new, cheap, narrow FOV camera designed to catch close passes and accidents.

ken
ken
8 years ago

I dont know, radar is radiation. Is sitting on top of a radiation emitter the safest thing, for reproductive health?

Ed
Ed
8 years ago

Ken, visible light is also a form of radiation. As for reproductive health, that is why I wear black underwear, since black absorbs the most visible light radiation. You could line your underwear with aluminum foil, since radar is radio waves. It will also prevent aliens from re-writing the genetic code of your offspring.

Psi Squared
Psi Squared
8 years ago

The intensity of the radar beam is very likely so small as to be negligible as far as affects on human tissue go. The energy per photon in the radar spectrum is less than the energy per photon in the visible light spectrum, and you’re bombarded with about 1000 watts per square meter of visible light every time you go outside.

Peter
Peter
8 years ago

Gunn, The biggest problem I have with mirrors is the false security the can give – thinking you saw the whole road, making a turn, and getting hit. This is especially true at higher speeds when shifting laterally from a road to a bike lane for example. I can’t draw a diagram but common sense alone dictates that turning one’s head for a 270 degree or greater field of view is better than any mirror’s offering no mater the head tilting. This relates to the false security this Garmin light is offering, or the false security of ‘cyclist detectors’ that cars offer, or the bicycle mirror’s inept field of view. All these gadgets lead us down a slippery slope of safety shortcuts that may well work…until they don’t. The best solution is the simplest. Look! And another note, I can’t recall how many times I’ve passed a mirror equipped cyclist that only notices me a meter or two before I intend to pass and makes a sudden movement. I would prefer to be seen in his or her peripheral vision while our bikes are already abreast and when it is less likely a sudden reaction can impede my line. Predictability is the first step to road safety. You said you can see silent cars sneaking up but then said there is no point in that anyway – agreed – being predictable alert and law abiding is what it takes. Mirrors offer no advantage to that despite their obvious drawbacks. And if I couldn’t turn my neck, I wouldn’t feel safe riding a bicycle – certainly not in a city, at high speeds or on technical terrain.

Gunnstein
Gunnstein
8 years ago

Peter, perhaps you are thinking about handlebar mounted mirrors? They have a limited field of view yes, because your body is in the way. Put the mirror on your glasses or helmet, and you get a full 360 degrees overview, just by turning your head a few degrees and using your eyes actively. I can only suggest you try it, to see how it works. I use the “Take-a-look” mirror, and recommend it to anyone who rides a bike in traffic.

“You said you can see silent cars sneaking up but then said there is no point in that anyway” – Not what I said at all. I said there is no point in letting the driver know that I’ve seen him, usually. There is certainly a point in me knowing that he’s there.

The advantages of a good mirror are self-apparent to me as a user. I use it much more often than others turn their head, making me more aware, more of the time. In dense city traffic I can monitor the tailgater behind me without hitting the car that suddenly brakes in front of me. At high speed I can look behind me without affecting either weight shift or aerodynamics – so no effect on stability. My neck works fine – the mirror works better.

The only thing I can agree with, is no need for mirrors when offroad. Again, try it if you haven’t, and give it a few hours or days to let it become second nature. If after that you still don’t think it’s a good idea – well, at least then it’s an informed choice.

Psi Squared
Psi Squared
8 years ago

Peter is also against mirrors in cars, horns, and other senseless tools that aid our awareness.

Alas, common sense doesn’t tell you anything about optics. A mirror provides at least as much field of view behind you as turning your head does. As a bonus, a mirror provides a large field of view behind without requiring you to turn your head as much, thus allowing you to still notice things in front of you.

Next up: why brakes lull you into false sense of security.

Veganpotter
Veganpotter
8 years ago

I think this is useful if you like to ride in the middle of the lane which I guess is fine if nobody is behind you. If you’re riding close to the shoulder(like most people do), I don’t think knowing a car is coming will do you any good. You’re still supposed to stay where you are. Maybe this is good for the person that likes to pull over and stop when a car is coming but that person isn’t gonna get anywhere by bike.

If a car is coming from behind you, its probably not gonna hit you. However, if it is going to hit, knowing its coming may even be bad because your body is better off in a relaxed state in an accident. This is one of the few scenarios when ignorance really is bliss. Its my job to try to be as visible as possible and stay as close to the shoulder as is safe. Someone, someday may hit me with their car. There is no way I can prepare for it…unless I’m riding on the wrong side of the road

Randall…I forgot who’s making it but there is a tailight that changes its brightness when a car is coming.

LateSleeper
LateSleeper
8 years ago

Micro-power radar is part of my skill set, and if I thought knowing the speed of overtaking traffic was a useful function I’d already have built something like this. In fact, I don’t care how fast overtaking vehicles are traveling, I only care how closely they pass me. If all motorists actually obeyed Colorado’s “3 feet to pass” rule, I wouldn’t care if they were going 80 mph. On the roads I ride, a sensor that alarms on speed rather than passing distance will be ringing like a doorbell on Halloween. If I’m already riding “as far to the right as practicable”, what am I going to do with that information? There’s usually no place for me to go.

What would be much more valuable to me would be one of those taillight cameras that also measures passing distance and uploads annotated icense plate photos of too-close drivers to the state patrol. A few hundred cyclists feeding data an automated traffic ticket system would go a long way towards making the roads safer.

Tomi
Tomi
8 years ago

sounds like a good way to be frightened by every car passing you without increasing safety. It is not like you could have fast enough reaction time to throw yourself into a ditch in case a car was really about to hit you.

Jim
Jim
8 years ago

The part that’s useful that changes or brightens it’s flash pattern has already been done – pretty sure it was on this site (google “see sense”) as a kick starter.

As far as knowing that somebody is coming up behind you is pretty useless you are riding on a road what do you expect ?

Wearables ? meh

Mark
Mark
8 years ago

All of this rear viewing equipment is all well and good but it all practicality how can it be used? I was hit from the rear by a pickup in East Texas last summer so I can speak with some authority. Just knowing a car is approaching is of little use. A mirror or your ears in many cases can tell you that. Is the car going to hit you? Every time your radar goes off do you stop and look? Are you going to run off the road when something approaches? The difference between getting hit and a close call is only a few degrees and until something can tell you that a car is on a collision course then it’s a false sense of security that will only have you looking over you shoulder too often.

Veganpotter
Veganpotter
8 years ago

LateSleeper…I would pay a lot of money for a system like that. I don’t have a lot of money but I don’t care. I’d be willing to sell a ton of my cycling gear to get a camera that could record passing distance, and plate numbers with an automated ticketing system. This would snag an easy 5 drivers or more every time I go out. If 10 people had this system in any given city, that would mean hundreds of people getting ticketed every month. It wouldn’t be long before everyone was scared to death about not giving 3 ft to every biker.

i
i
8 years ago

Peter, you’ve obviously never biked in, or probably even visited a big city. From what you say, it sounds like you think city life is like a car commercial, where seeing a car on the road is a rare thing.

You can be as predictable and law abiding as you like, and stay in your imaginary bike lane, that isn’t going to do $hit about the kid who is texting and not paying attention like you are. Unless you never put your eyes on the road and are constantly looking over your shoulder, that kid may run you down before you realize he’s coming (deleted). Even if you see a car swerving like the driver is drunk, it’s possible there could be no where for you to go – a really bright flashing light that wakes the driver up would be valuable.

True, safety devices aren’t much use in your small town with bike lanes on every road and perfectly attentive drivers. For the reality-based community however there are times when something like this could be useful.

Tom
Tom
8 years ago

You lot don’t seriously think Garmin are using this for a safety light do you? That is a red herring. They want it to act a a proximity device for racing. An early warning system for Contador as Froome attacks and closes him down. Think of the Vuelta last year and those moments Contador was peering over his shoulder. No any more. His Garmin computer will sound a warning bleep and then his rear facing virb will activate and begin streaming live footage, to the Garmin, of Froomey chasing him down. This in turn will then shift Contadors Di2 gears (auto sensing Contadors mindset), dependent on his heart rate of course, into an appropriate gear so that he can make a timely defence of his lead.

It will also serve as a safety radar to ensure car and motorbikes amongst the peloton maintain a safe distance from the riders and vice versa.

Ronin
Ronin
8 years ago

What I’d want out of such a system, is…cue marketing…

Cyclist, had one too many punishment passes? Car drivers getting too close for comfort? MMA training ruining your cyclist physique? Well we have the answer for your. Your own personal defense drone!

Combining rear radar and license tagging, it’s time to even out the odds. If a car driver is being dangerous, just one push of a button tags his vehicle. The signal is then sent to central command (which needs a subscription) and the nearest drone is dispatched.

Use of such systems is illegal in most states, but it’s legal to own them 🙂

Brought to you by NSP-BlueWater Security Systems.

Veganpotter
Veganpotter
8 years ago

Ronin, when you’re in public its legal to be recorded. Its questionable whether the government can do this(hence, red light cameras have been ruled illegal in some places). I private citizen is permitted to record private citizens from public land. Actually, someone is allowed to photograph/record people in their homes so long as they’re on public property(or legally used private property) and not in the person’s house. You aren’t allowed to stalk people in public(of course paparazzi seems to be able to do this to celebs) but you’re always able to videotape or photograph random people so long as you aren’t making cash of their image. Hence you don’t need to get waivers from people in the background when taking photos of your friends at the beach.

***Personally, I’d like a graffiti tagging system. Come within 3ft and your car automatically gets spray painted or even keyed. Of course, this wouldn’t react fast enough when being passed by a vehicle going 20+mph faster than you

Star
Star
8 years ago

Garmin and GPS already knows where a lot of us are going (real time maps & tracking). Why can’t mine act as a “radar detector”, and give me a beep of increasing frequency, as the guy hammering down the forested, single track, going for a K.O.M, is about to lawn dart me. If you have your garmin on and I have mine on, can’t we OPT in, to get a heads up??

b
b
8 years ago

“i” sounds like the kind of rider wobbling around while staring in their tiny helmet mirror, erratically weaving away from passing traffic, failing to hold a line or riding predictably.

The idea of using a helmet mirror to decide to make last-second emergency evasive maneuvers is completely asinine to me. I would love to know how many nervous freds have dove into a ditch for no reason other than they ‘had the feeling’ that the car they saw in their little mirror was surely about to collide with them.

And yes, I live and ride in a big city.

Gunnstein
Gunnstein
8 years ago

b: “The idea of using a helmet mirror to decide to make last-second emergency evasive maneuvers is completely asinine to me.” – Agreed, the last second is usually too late to do anything useful.

The thing about good mirrors is that they give you the chance to react to dangers long before the last second. And note that a “tiny” helmet mirror is actually “big”, because it’s so close to your eye. Comparatively similar to the side mirror of cars, sometimes bigger. I can see incoming cars behind me as far away as I can see them in front of me, so I can react to situations before they become dangerous.

ydrive
ydrive
8 years ago

I just want to ride my bike and my Garmin Edge and lights enough electronics to have to worry about and distract from the ride.

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