Biking in cities can be exhilarating, but it can also be harrowing and dangerous. In 2018, over 850 cyclists were killed by vehicle drivers in the US, an increase of 6.3 percent over the previous year. Over 2,000 cyclists are killed by drivers on the road in Europe every year. Cyclists try to make themselves more visible to drivers by wearing reflective clothing and blinking lights, but it never seems to be enough.
So here comes Ford with a novel solution: an emoji jacket. As part of its “Share the Road” campaign to improve cycling safety, the automaker’s European division designed a cycling jacket with an LED display on the back that lights up with various emoji to convey the cyclist’s mood. A smiley face indicates a happy cyclist, a frowny face a less happy one, and so on. There are also directional symbols for when a cyclist intends to make a turn and a hazard symbol when they may be experiencing a flat tire.
“Emojis have become a fundamental part of how we use language,” said Neil Cohn, a linguist. “Whether used to convey facial expressions, humor, or sarcasm, they have become integral to our ability to express ourselves and quickly. This jacket created in partnership with Ford Share the Road allows riders to express their feelings and creates an important emotional link between them and other road users.”
In addition to linguists, Ford worked with cyclists and industrial designers from Designworks on the jacket. But the jacket is just a proof-of-concept for now, and it’s unclear whether Ford intends to bring them to market.
Speaking personally, I would be the first to buy one of these — just as long as I can program it to display a middle finger.