25 January 2018

What Would They Say To Each Other?

Well-behaved women seldom make history.

By now, you've probably seen that saying on more than a few bumper stickers.  You might have even heard it.  

Just for fun, I've asked people who said it first.  The answers have included almost every kind of woman imaginable, from Eleanor Roosevelt to Marilyn Monroe and Gloria Steinem to Kim Kardashian.

Kim Kardashian?  I'm not even sure "seldom" is in her vocabulary!

I confess:  Until I knew better, I would have believed that Eleanor Roosevelt uttered it.  For that matter, I could have believed it came from Sinead O'Connor or even Madonna.  But, alas, the pithy quote spilled from the pen of an academic with whom even I wasn't familiar. (Shh..don't tell anybody!)

She is none other than Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a Pulitzer-Prize winning historian.  That saying, however, was not part of the work that would earn her acclaim:  it was tucked in an article she wrote as a graduate student.  Ironically, some three decades later, she would use that aphorism as the title of a book, precisely because it was everywhere.

Now, I must say, with all due respect to Professor Ulrich, I generally try to behave myself, and even try to resemble a lady, at least in some ways.  I also must say that I am constitutionally incapable of being so well-behaved at every moment.  Yes, there are times when I "lose it" and use words graduate students rarely use in papers they're trying to publish in the hopes of becoming professors.

I won't repeat those words here.  Fortunately--for me, anyway--most of the drivers (and errant pedestrians) who were at the receiving end of my "good old Anglo Saxon words" never saw me again. 

Let's face it:  When a driver who's texting almost kills you, it's hard not to yell and curse.   Those "four letter words" are most accessible when we're under stress and in danger, especially when it's caused by someone else's negligence or stupidity.  

But what if bikes and cars could talk?  What would they say to each other in such situations?

That question isn't as fanciful as you might think.  Trek is partnering with Ford and Tome Software to come up with a bicycle-to-vehicle (B2V) communications system that alerts drivers to bicycles that might be ahead of them in dangerous areas of the road.  

One thing I find interesting is that the partners are trying make their system "brand agnostic", so it's not tied to one platform or product. (And we can't have Net Neutrality?) For the next year, he 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.

 "This is something that will absolutely save lives if we do this, " says Tome founder and CEO Jake Sigal.  

I don't doubt him.  I just wonder what he will have bikes and cars saying to each other in a B2V communications system.  Will they be well-behaved?


  1. "Their technology works on existing bicycle products for all cyclists."

    Which existing bicycle products?

  2. Good question, Steve. I'm guessing bicycle electronics like Garmin. But the language of that quote is ignorant or deceptive, isn't it?