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Cyclist safety is a persistent issue that road safety officers and councillors are constantly looking to improve. Now, car manufacturer Ford are putting their knowledge on road safety to the test, after creating a VR-programmed empathy tool to aid cyclist safety and increase awareness on the worries of travelling on two wheels as opposed to four.

Despite improved road conditions for cyclists, such as designated cycle lanes which separate bike users from motorists, cyclists still remain the most vulnerable road users, alongside pedestrians. Ford felt it was time to take further action on cyclist safety and have used VR to do this in a creative and innovative way, to evoke more empathy for cyclists.

The new campaign, ‘WheelSwap’, is designed to take users on a typical day-to-day journey for a cyclist, with the aim to evoke empathy. The use of Virtual Reality takes users on an immersive journey. Ford’s aim is to create empathy and, ultimately, encourage road users to respect cyclists travelling on the road.

Steven Armstrong, president and CEO of Ford Europe, Middle East & Africa, feels strongly about the recent campaign: “As someone who frequently travels on both two and four wheels, I have experienced first hand many of the frustrations – and dangers – that drivers and cyclists encounter on our roads today.”

Behavioural Scientist Dan Berry, who helped to construct the experiment, said: “There is no more effective means of appreciating someone else’s point of view than stepping into their shoes, or in this case, onto their pedals. Empathy is an immensely powerful emotion.”

After a positive reception, the WheelSwap campaign will soon feature on YouTube, so that road users can access the cyclist safety video experience from their own home. The new technology has been compared to the hazard perception test, which motorists have to carry out to pass their driver theory test, as it highlights the issues and hazards cyclists and motorists encounter on the road.

Sir David Brailsford, General Manager of Team Sky backs the Ford campaign: “Europe is home to some of the world’s largest cycling communities and increased pressure on road space is raising safety ever higher up the agenda.

“This campaign is not just about introducing new technology, but also highlighting the need for equal respect and responsibility. If both cyclists and motorists took a little bit more time to understand each other’s needs, then we would quickly see a change in attitudes and behaviour which can ultimately improve road safety for everybody. Ford’s leadership role can play an important part in helping make that happen.”

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