As part of Ford's "Share the Road" campaign, the Michigan-based automaker's European division is putting forth a new idea for curbing road rage between cyclists and drivers: emojis.
They partnered with linguists and industrial designers from Designworks to create a prototype jacket that features an LED mesh panel on the back. Cyclists use a wireless remote mounted on the bike's handlebars to activate the display with turn signals, a hazard sign, or one of three emojis meant to quickly communicate their mood. (At this point we know what you're probably thinking and no, the jacket doesn't have an option to display the middle finger emoji...)
"All too often [communication] between drivers and cyclists just comes down to the beeping of a horn or a rude gesture," Ford's Emmanuel Lubrani says. "Cyclists usually have to take a hand off the handlebars to communicate but the Emoji Jacket uses a universally understood means of communication to show one way in which tensions could be eased."
The idea doesn't account for the many bike commuters who wear backpacks (there are some helmets with built-in turn signals already on the market) and puts the onus on cyclists without addressing the road rage of drivers. Dr. Neil Cohn, a communications and cognition expert who worked on the project, explains that the merit of the jacket is being able to quickly establish "an important emotional link between [cyclists] and other road users."
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Only one jacket was made as a proof-of-concept and Ford hasn't said whether they plan on bringing the design to market. Could this actually be helpful or is it just a nice campaign? How could a company like Ford better use its resources to address road safety and urban infrastructure?