I took the ultrasonic bike radar prototype out for its first test drive this weekend and admittedly got mixed results from it. The prototype didn't function at all as expected, though the experience was still fruitful in providing direction for where we need to focus our efforts. I've learned that these things are all too common when prototyping something new.
This first prototype was not able to help me out at all in terms of increasing awareness of the other bicyclists and cars around me. I took Velalert for a ride up and down Valencia St in SF and had numerous cyclists pass me from behind as well as cars come up on the side, and in both cases I had no idea until they were in view (or heard the car engine). Disappointing for sure, but we've got a lot of great ideas on how to address this and are diving head first back into new sensor development.
Despite the sensor not working at all as hoped for, the usability testing was still incredibly valuable for helping to visualize the product in use, what it needs to do, and how that can be communicated to the rider.
First off, it can't be startling or something that pulls your eyes off the road. It needs to immediately communicate how far an object is and what direction it's approaching in a single glance. And it needs to use sound to alert the rider of something new, to prompt a quick glance at the panel to learn more.
I now have some very clear ideas on what and how the alert panel (mounted on the handlebars) will communicate to the rider. As we make progress with the sensors, we'll incorporate these new ideas into the next prototype and share them as soon as we have something to show!