Ford Says Cyclists Can Help Share the Road by Wearing an Emoji Jacket

©. Ford Emoji Jacket/ Ford Europe

They could also make their vehicles less deadly, but let's put the onus on the cyclist first.

It's so endearing and thoughtful, the effort light truck companies (they are getting out of the car business) like Ford go to in the interests of protecting cyclists and pedestrians. It's all part of their "Share the Road" campaign that "seeks to foster harmony between road users and underlines the company’s belief that enabling more people to cycle safely, especially for short journeys, benefits everyone."

Emoji controller on handlebars

© Emoji controller on handlebars/ Ford EuropeSo now they have developed an Emoji jacket, "designed to show how tensions could be eased by enabling riders to more easily and more clearly show drivers what their intentions are – and how they are feeling." Most reviewers of the jacket seem to think that it is missing a raised middle finger emoji, and they have a point.

Emmanuel Lubrani of the Share the Road campaign explains:

We are now living – and driving – in a world where communication is crucial. But all too often between drivers and cyclists this just comes down to the beeping of a horn or a rude gesture. Cyclists usually have to take a hand off the handlebars to communicate. The Emoji Jacket uses a universally understood means of communication to show one way in which tensions could be eased – and we all learn to ‘Share The Road."
Ford smart jacket

© Ford/ Smile! Cycling is fun!

This is not the first time we have shown vaporware from Ford designed to make us feel like they care, they really do. We previously showed a Smart Jacket with "turn signal lights on the sleeves, and little haptic vibrators connected to the rider’s smart phone that tells them where to go to avoid serious traffic problems." I wrote at the time:

The reason that we all are so skeptical of the motives behind these kinds of things is that we have seen it all before. We saw how helmets became the go-to answer to bike safety, even though the country (USA!) with the highest rate of helmet use also has the highest cyclist death rate. We call it “blaming the victim”; the police and the car people call it “sharing responsibility”.
Ford pickup

Lloyd Alter/ the front of a ford/CC BY 2.0

Then we saw light trucks, in the form of SUVS and pickups, take over the market. It's very hard to share the road with these, because the visibility is so bad and they are so deadly when they hit you.

If Ford really cared about the safety of pedestrians and cyclists they would redesign their vehicles in North America to be as safe as cars, with a front end that you could actually see over, like they do in Europe. But then every pickup would look like a wimpy Ford Transit, and that's a hard sell.

ford ad selling lifeguard Design

Ford ad selling Lifeguard Design/Promo image

People at Ford probably remember the fifties, when Ford President Robert McNamara thought he could sell "Lifeguard design," adding seat belts, padded dashboards and collapsing steering wheels while GM kept selling torque and acceleration with sexy models. According to Richard Johnson in Automotive News,

The ’56 Fords sold well for a brief time, but the safety message didn’t resonate with car buyers. In 1955, Chevrolet outsold Ford by 67,000 cars. In 1956 Chevrolet increased the gap to 190,000 units. Henry Ford II grew impatient, finally griping to a reporter, “McNamara is selling safety, but Chevrolet is selling cars.” The experience spawned a credo that would go unchallenged in the auto industry for decades: Safety doesn’t sell.

It is still true; the car companies do the minimum that the government demands of them, which is almost nothing when it comes to pedestrian and cyclist safety. So let's put helmets and hi-viz and now emojis on everyone and then "share the road."