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Volvo LifePaint

Volvo LifePaint Ė just a harmless experiment, a misfiring PR exercise or a serious cyclist safety enhancer?
In a recent Telegraph article, Volvo was outlining its novel reflective spray paint idea that it is trialling in Kent.

Dubbed LifePaint, the idea behind this spray paint is that it can be applied to any fabric or surface without causing any damage and easily washes out.

Most importantly though, once applied to clothes this paint reflects the beam from a headlight during the hours of darkness: it is claimed that the reflective properties last about a week, or until you wash the clothes if sooner.

Broken bike

Initially touted as a trial in London and parts of Kent, this could eventually roll out nationwide.

Itís an interesting concept that poses a number of questions, including:

  • How comfortable would you be about spraying Ďpaintí on your clothes and trusting that it will not affect the colour or durability of your garments?
  • How confident would you be relying on it as your means of being visible at night?
  • What happens to it when it comes into contact with sweat or rain or dirt from the road?

The technology is also reliant on effective light being projected by headlights, but as DfT statistics confirm, at least one in 10 vehicles are driving around with faulty headlights, and many others drive around caked in dirt and mud, so you may not be as visible as you think.

The reality is that solutions that rely purely on the efficacy of headlight beam output alone are always prone to weakness.

We already see this in the world of road markings, where passive solutions such as white lining and retro-reflective catís eyes suffer this same weakness.

White lining is particularly affected by road detritus, wear and tear and even disappears under water.

And both this technology and retro-reflective catís eyes tend to have a relatively short operational life of 18-24 months.

Hence, why our SolarLite active road stud technology combines retro-reflective strips with active light output from in-built LEDs powered by solar energy harvested within the product.

These products give year-round visibility of up to 900m all throughout the night for between 8-10 years Ė without relying on vehicle headlights to do the work.

We applaud the work that Volvo is doing, as they have long been a thought leader in the world of road safety and pushing the boundaries of driverless cars and safety technology.

However, on this occasion we canít help but feel that this is more like an experiment in the possible and a publicity stunt rather than delivering a viable safety solution. And it appears that we are not alone.

But itís a good way of testing the publicís willingness to adopt such ideas nonetheless Ė and if it saves even one life, then it was a worthwhile experiment.
Uploaded 26/05/2015