Auto Tech

Vehicle safety sensors may be to blame for bicyclist pileup crash

Advanced driver-assistance systems do a great job of keeping people safe, but they have limits. This Belgian bicycle race may have exposed one.

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne Cyclists Crash into Renault Koleos
WielerFlitsBE via Twitter

It's highly possible the organizers of the junior edition of the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne cycling race in Belgium unwittingly revealed an unforeseen issue with Renault's automatic emergency braking system. According to Cycling News, several cyclists crashed into the back of the race director's Renault Koleos when the vehicle abruptly stopped only seconds after the race's start.

The cycling publication quoted one of the organizers speculating that a faulty transmission may have been the cause behind the sudden stop, but Jalopnik disagrees, saying instead that the Koleos' collision-mitigation braking system may be to blame here. We're inclined to agree with that assessment.

As with any new technology on cars, trucks or SUVs sold today, advanced driver assistance systems receive years of development and countless miles of testing before they ever meet the consumer. But even with all that testing, a car company can't account for everything, especially when it comes to cars driving down the street with people popped through the sunroof.

Have a look at the video above, and you'll notice that once the man standing through the sunroof rests his left forearm on the top of the windshield, the Renault appears to slam on its brakes. On the other side of the glass, just underneath the man's elbow sits a sensor for the Koleos' forward collision warning and automatic braking function.

Thankfully, there were no serious injuries, Cycling News reported, and after a 21-minute delay, all the riders resumed racing.

Regardless of whether this is a case of a faulty transmission (unlikely) or an instance of a sensor being kind of dumb, this accident reminds us of a couple of things. First, try your best not to stand through a sunroof while a vehicle is in motion.

Second, unless you're hellbent on following the advice of Grace Jones' 1981 single Pull Up to the Bumper, never follow a vehicle ahead too closely. Otherwise, an insurance claim is in your immediate future.

Obviously, these cyclists are an exception to that rule because they had a reasonable expectation of safety, but clearly, even closed-course cyclists are not immune to automotive stupidity.