Riding bicycles or motorcycles is dangerous, because drivers in cars often don't see you — they are looking for other cars. The ideal solution is to train drivers to look for bikes, but safety groups have been trying to do that for years without much success. The alternative is to make yourself as visible as possible when you're on a bike. Brightly-colored vests, like those worn by road construction workers, can help you stand out. LightVest uses LEDs to achieve a similar result, but with the added benefit of turn signals, brake lights, and hazard lights.
Eben Kouao challenged himself to create a product and start-up in only four weeks, and LightVest is the result. With a budget of $500, Kouao was able to conceive the idea, create a functional prototype, perform some initial marketing, and prepare for launch. And this is a genuinely great product that should appeal to many bicycle and motorcycle riders. LED strips line both the front and back of the vest, so drivers can see the wearer's intentions whether they’re move towards the cyclist or coming up behind them. LightVest could have a real impact on safety, particularly for people riding at night.
While Kouao did design LightVest as part of his quest to create a start-up in four weeks, he has made the product open source. Instructions on how you can replicate the prototype are available on Kouao's GitHub page. An Arduino Nano controls the LEDs that line the vest. Those are strips of WS2812B individually-addressable RGB LEDs with an IP67 weatherproof casing. Power comes from rechargeable AA batteries. The LEDs attach to an off-the-shelf bike safety vest using 3D-printed mounts.
Riders can control some functions, like the hazard lights and running light effects, through a separate remote. That remote also contains an Arduino Nano. The two Arduinos communicate with each other through HC-05 Bluetooth modules. But the brake lights are automatic and triggered when the rider stops abruptly. An accelerometer detects those sudden stops, so the rider doesn't have to fiddle with the remote in an emergency situation. Not only is LightVest a great product, but Kouao has proven that a motivated individual can accomplish a lot in four weeks.