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Garmin releases rear radar to alert cyclists of danger

Alia Parker's picture
Garmin's new Varia display unit and rearview radar. Cycle Traveller

NEWS: It was just a matter of time before object sensor technology was adapted for cyclists with GPS device company Garmin becoming the first major manufacturer to foray into the sphere with an innovative new safety product.

The Garmin Varia range of “smart cycling” devices has been launched today in Australia, aiming to improve bike rider safety by using object sensors to alert cyclists of potential threats, while at the same time automatically triggering flashing lights to draw attention to cyclists' presence on the road.

“Varia rearview bike radar and smart bike lights not only alert cyclists of vehicles, but also alert the vehicles of the cyclist,” said Matt DeMoss, general manager of Garmin Australasia.

How it works

The core of the new safety system is the rearview bike radar. This is designed to sense up to eight vehicles approaching from behind from as far back as 140 metres. The radar will then sync with a Garmin Edge GPS device (or if you don't have one of those, a radar display unit that is included in the box) to flash an alert on the screen to make sure the rider knows there is a vehicle coming up from behind.

The second function is to alert the driver of the cyclist's presence. To do this, the Varia rearview radar syncs with a Garmin tail light to increase the intensity of the flash when a vehicle is present, increasing the chance the driver has seen the cyclists ahead.

Video of how the new Garmin Varia works to improve cyclist safety. Cycle TravellerWhen used with the Edge 1000 GPS, the device can also optimise the brightness of the light to suit the conditions and the speed of the cyclists. For instance, the front light can sync with the Garmin GPS allowing the cyclist's speed to determine how far ahead the front light should be projected. For instance, the light will project further ahead for a rider cycling quickly, and closer in for a cyclist travelling slowly.

The front light can also sense vehicles approaching from the front, allowing it to switch off the high beam function so as not to blind oncoming drivers.

An additional feature of the Varia system is the use of turn signals, which can be activated when a rider uses two tail lights, controlled by a remote on the device at the front.

Garmin said it designed the new system to address the need to improved cyclist safety. Each year, about 40 cyclists are killed on Australian roads. Other data shows that about 40% of cycling fatalities were caused by a cyclists being hit by a vehicle from behind.


The Varia bundle (including the rearview radar and tail light) retails in Australia at $389. The smart lights are also available as a bundle (including the front, rear light and remote control) for $389. Separately, the headlight is $259 and the tail light is $99.

What do you think of this idea? Would you use it?

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