Jake Sigal wants to make biking safer.
To do that, Sigal and his Detroit-area software company, Tome, plan to make bicycles, or their accessories, smarter and allow them to communicate with the cars and trucks that occupy the same streets, sometimes leading to fatal interactions.
For the next year, Tome will be working at the Mcity autonomous vehicle test site at the University of Michigan to develop software that can go into bike and car accessories and apps. The software would, among other things, alert vehicle drivers when cyclists are in the area to potentially cut down on collisions. A car’s navigation system could, for instance, warn a driver who might have trouble seeing because of glare from sunlight that a cyclist is nearby.
How exactly the technology would function is not yet known because the project is in its earliest stages.
Sigal said the goal is not to tie the effort to one platform or product and he hopes to add partners as the project moves forward. The team will be working through the University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship’s TechLab incubator at Mcity.
Sigal, who is a regular cyclist and lives in suburban Detroit, sees the project as a way to solve a problem that “everyone talks about,” but no one has adequately addressed.
“This is something that will absolutely save lives if we do this,” said Sigal, who knows firsthand about the close calls that come from riding a bike on Michigan’s roads.
Sigal, 36, and his business partner, Massimo Baldini, are working with Trek Bicycle on the project and funding their portion themselves. Sigal estimates the total investment for all involved will be $1 million to $1.5 million.
And as cycling has gained in popularity, the danger for cyclists has increased. A study by the Governors Highway Safety Association and State Farm noted that 55 additional cyclists have died each year since 2011 on U.S. roads.
Tome’s founders have a track record of dealing with automotive companies and vehicle connectivity specifically. Ford purchased Livio, a software startup, from Sigal and Baldini in 2013. The pair formed Tome, which now has 20 workers, the following year.