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Garmin Varia radar modification for better situational awarenes = better SAFETY?

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Garmin Varia radar modification for better situational awarenes = better SAFETY?

Old 11-12-21, 06:14 AM
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Primorsky
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Lightbulb Garmin Varia radar modification for better situational awarenes = better SAFETY?

Hi all

Preamble. I am roadie guy and city commuter. Bycicle is my primary personal transport for eight/nine months of the year. I live in the city, use broad (at least, two lane in one direction), heavy traffic roads. Also, sometimes Im riding on a public roads(where cyclists are allowed) outside the city.

Unfortunately, unlike many Western European or US cities, we don't have very strict speed limits for motorized vehicles here. Typical speed limit on a large streets and broadways is 60 kmph (37 mph). Also, we have a +19 kmph of "free" non-punishable over speed possibility "due to a possible measurement errors of speed control cameras". Many drivers abuse this opportunity and usually drive with "free" 60+19 kmph speed. Although in the event of an accident, this +19 can be an aggravating circumstance. Also, our cycling (anti-cycling, in better words) infrastructure is joke.

That's why road safety in traffic is a very serious concern for me. I have a good helmet mounted rear view mirror (I am using it since my first days of a road cycling). My daytime running lights (all three of them) are always on. Also, high-viz elements on my bikes frames/wheels and garment.

The majority of our drivers are adequate people. They hardly want to endanger me as cyclist. Despite all "freedoms to violate" and our ridiculous speeding penalties (equivalent to the cost of a big coffee-cup, usually), harming of a cyclist is prosecuted act here.

However, in some cases, there are jerks who "rush" in the right-most lane next to me at speeds "well above" 80 kmph (e.g. 100 kmph or 62 mph, or even more). NO, this doesn't happen every day or every week, but it annoys me to an extreme degree. Because it happens unexpectedly! In many cases I can't catch in my mirror with a good margin of time a really fast cars, when they travelling in the right most lane. Especially in the dark, the efficiency of the mirror drops dramatically.
----


Now I am very interested in the Garmin Varia radar (as the only tech. solution available) to "catch" threats and warn me about aggressive(fast) drivers. I still don't have Garmin hardware. And I think I don't really need these expensive devices, if some specific functionality is not technically possible.

From Garmin web-site, how the threat detection works:

"The RDU or compatible Garmin device will change the threat level to red, indicating high awareness, under the following conditions: A fast vehicle is detected (any vehicle faster than 90km/h (55mph) relative to the bike or any vehicle significantly faster than the average vehicle speed)"

Faster than 90km/h (55mph) *relative* to the *bike speed*? Are they serious? Why is the value so high and why it cannot be changed in the settings. What is "Vehicle significantly faster than the average vehicle speed"? Formula 1's bolid?
I'm not surprised why so many people think that Varia is almost useless on a busy roads e.g. in the city. The head unit paired with Varia simply beeps on every vehicle, but ignores a potencially dangerous objects.


1. The idea is about to detect (and alert me) not about *every* vehicle which is approaching me, but vehicles with speed faster than average. it means that not only slow, but also "ordinary" vehicles should be ignored.

I hope it's possible trough the developing of a Connect-IQ application (software for Garmin platfrom, running on the head unit) that will interact with the radar in its own way.
In best case scenario this speed threshold value should be editable in settings. I believe that the application should get data from the radar in real time (at least, with minimum delays) to make it possible. After detecting a fast car, there should be an immediate alarm - strong vibration of the smartwatch or beep of the head unit.

2. Alternative and more flexible app's behavior. The application calculates the average traffic speed from radar data and notifies(alerts) cyclist about vehicle that exceed AVG traffic speed by specified value from the setting(e.g. exceeding by 30 kmph).


- What do you think about this idea? Could it be useful for you?

- I read somewhere about the existence of an application (for the Garmin platform or for Android/iOS) that can visually display and update speeds of detected vehicles(by Varia) in relatively real time. Who can test the operation of the system in practice? I am Interested in knowning the real hardware capabilities to complete task. What I need to know, how much can you trust the radar in terms of reading and updating speeds?.

P.S. I understand perfectly well that there is no AESA-radar in Varia like inside the F-35 or Su-57 fighter jets. And in fact, this is civilian technology, not space-grade or military-grade tech.
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Old 11-12-21, 06:29 AM
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In the city it may not be as helpful when there are many cars truck and motorcycles coming up behind you. But it will show dot for each one up to a number I’ve not counted. The change of color to red I don’t notice much. It will beep for a faster approaching car. If a car sits back behind you long enough their dot disappears. Just get one an give it a try. I was hesitant about getting one until I road with my cousin who had an older one with the separate indicator. That pushed me to get one and with the Garmin 1030 it is more improved. The Wahoo bike computers are also compatible.

Speed indication and warning adjustments would be nice. I bet we will see it in the future. For now just the radar is helpful. For know I just judge the speed of the dot on the screen.

Sparked my interest to put on my Google Foo hat. There seems to be a field for estimated vehicles approach speed along with counts. There is an app to see this afterwards. So this data should be accessible on the bike computer user interface. For now I see only afterwards.

https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/05/...t-app.html/amp

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Old 11-12-21, 06:48 AM
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In my experience with the Varia, it has been able to detect approaching vehicles well before I even saw them in my helmet mounted mirror. The display on my 1030+ will beep and show a green line/dot for those approaching slowly. That beep is enough to get me to look quickly to see if it's a green or red line/dot, and to check my mirror to determine if the driver is paying attention and either slowing until it's safe to pass, or moving over to pass. I won't ride without one.
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Old 11-12-21, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by biker128pedal View Post
In the city it may not be as helpful when there are many cars truck and motorcycles coming up behind you. But it will show dot for each one up to a number I’ve not counted.
Yes. In the large city car traffic presents constantly. That's why I want to filter out ordinary vehicles and get alarm signal only about initially fast (at the moment of their detection) and aggressively accelerating vehicles.

Originally Posted by biker128pedal View Post
The change of color to red I don’t notice much. It will beep for a faster approaching car.
So, it will beep on every car, travelling faster than others among detected and tracked (up to eight) at the same time?
Then it has nothing to do with the so called red threat level (what is described in the official documentation - 55mph threshold relative to the bike speed). 55mph is unusually high over speed value.

Originally Posted by biker128pedal View Post
Speed indication and warning adjustments would be nice. I bet we will see it in the future. For now just the radar is helpful. For know I just judge the speed of the dot on the screen.
Without doubt, dots on the screen moving at different speeds can be useful. But in a tense urban environment I would rather look in the rearview mirror or forward to the road.

Originally Posted by biker128pedal View Post
There is an app to see this afterwards. So this data should be accessible on the bike computer user interface. For now I see only afterwards.
Thanks. Yes, I know. Great app, but only as statistical tool.
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Old 11-12-21, 09:05 AM
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My Garmin Varia just is to alert me somethings coming up from behind. What will you do any different if you were to know there is a car coming at you 30 or even 50 mph faster than another vehicle?

It's only in the very last seconds that you could possibly determine they intend to do you harm and by that time it's probably too late or you crashed on your own because you were too focused on your Varia and not the road ahead.

Varia is not useful if you are in constant traffic of most urban areas, IMO.

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Old 11-12-21, 09:50 AM
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I bought the Varia (1st gen) for Frau Toad, she has a weak left eye, making helmet mirrors and head turns to the left unhelpful. After setting it up on her Garmin Edge 520, she never really liked it. I was ready to sell it, but decided to try it on my Edge 1030 before selling it. One ride with the Varia and I decided there's no way I'd ride the roads without it ever again. Funny thing, the Varia is still linked to Lisa's 520 and will send vehicle alerts to both of our Garmin head units .... and we just set up a new tandem and really love that we can both get alerts.

One story that sounds like the OP's riding environment: I was riding a rural 2-lane highway (55 mph) with no shoulder, my radar alerted me of a vehicle behind and I saw an oncoming vehicle that would likely meet right by me. I was able to find a field driveway to get off the pavement, and was super happy because the vehicle did meet right as passing me, and the overtaking vehicle was a semi that wasn't moving to yield any space ... I'd have had a semi within 3-foot if I hadn't moved off the pavement.

Originally Posted by Primorsky View Post
I'm not surprised why so many people think that Varia is almost useless on a busy roads e.g. in the city. The head unit paired with Varia simply beeps on every vehicle, but ignores a potencially dangerous objects.
IMHO - Varia isn't useless in city environments, but I like it much better on suburban or rural roads. The one time it's useless is riding a frontage road next to a busy highway, you have no idea if there's a car behind you or on the highway. Additionally, my Garmin Edge 1030 beeps once for one car or 2+ cars, and you will see each vehicle as a dot along the side of the display.

Originally Posted by Primorsky View Post
1. The idea is about to detect (and alert me) not about *every* vehicle which is approaching me, but vehicles with speed faster than average. it means that not only slow, but also "ordinary" vehicles should be ignored.

I hope it's possible trough the developing of a Connect-IQ application (software for Garmin platfrom, running on the head unit) that will interact with the radar in its own way.
In best case scenario this speed threshold value should be editable in settings. I believe that the application should get data from the radar in real time (at least, with minimum delays) to make it possible. After detecting a fast car, there should be an immediate alarm - strong vibration of the smartwatch or beep of the head unit.
Check out the YouTube links below, there are developers doing some interesting stuff with the Varia, and ideas for additional functionality. I'm not that tech savvy ... but I will say that the visual display shows you relative approach speed based on how fast that dot is moving.


Here are a couple insightful videos for Varia



Here's how this vehicle count and speed shows after my ride in Garmin Connect. This is clearly not real-time data, but shows a little about what a developer can do:


Last edited by Hypno Toad; 11-15-21 at 08:20 AM. Reason: adding text
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Old 11-12-21, 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
My Garmin Varia just is to alert me somethings coming up from behind. What will you do any different if you were to know there is a car coming at you 30 or even 50 mph faster than another vehicle?
This is a chance of the last hope for avoiding the hit. After receiving alarm signal while riding in the city, I can move to the far right position on the road(to the curb). As an experienced commuter, I am always trying to leave myself a some margin of space on the right for emergency maneuvering. On a narrow country road, I can pull over from asphalt to the roadside.

Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
It's only in the very last seconds that you could possibly determine they intend to do you harm and by that time it's probably too late or you crashed on your own because you were too focused on your Varia and not the road ahead.
I think that a trained conditioned reflex is needed to get it works. The sequence of actions is as follows: receiving a signal (sound or vibration on the hand) -> evasion maneuver. At the maximum detection range (140 meters), the time margin for making a decision can be significant.I don't mean to say that this will work in every situation. But the chances of avoiding an accident must go up dramatically

Varia is not useful if you are in constant traffic of most urban areas, IMO.
Yes. At least, with its out-of-box software package.
The good news is that there is an opportunity to develop your own software for processing data from radar.
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Old 11-12-21, 10:07 AM
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So you are going to assume that any car that is going fast is going to hit you?

I can't see how you'll know a car is going to hit you till it's too late to do anything about it. On the country two lane roads I ride here, cars come upon me pretty fast from the rear and slow down to my speed when within a few car lengths if they find that they can't pass me at that time. So yes it's partly trust that they see me.

When I get an alert I just do what I've done for many years when all I had were my ears to hear them coming from behind. I just keep my line on the road and ride in a predictable way. I don't move over to the edge, because I've had too many think that means I'm okay with them squeezing by in the same lane with me. When traffic is coming the opposite way and they can't use the other lane that is a most dangerous situation and they'll err to giving more room to the approaching vehicle than they will the cyclist they are passing.

But my area and traffic aren't your area and traffic. So my choices might be different in your area than they are here.
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Old 11-12-21, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
So you are going to assume that any car that is going fast is going to hit you?

I can't see how you'll know a car is going to hit you till it's too late to do anything about it. On the country two lane roads I ride here, cars come upon me pretty fast from the rear and slow down to my speed when within a few car lengths if they find that they can't pass me at that time. So yes it's partly trust that they see me.

When I get an alert I just do what I've done for many years when all I had were my ears to hear them coming from behind. I just keep my line on the road and ride in a predictable way. I don't move over to the edge, because I've had too many think that means I'm okay with them squeezing by in the same lane with me. When traffic is coming the opposite way and they can't use the other lane that is a most dangerous situation and they'll err to giving more room to the approaching vehicle than they will the cyclist they are passing.

But my area and traffic aren't your area and traffic. So my choices might be different in your area than they are here.
personally, when i ride with the varia and am on a relatively fast/narrow road, and i get a warning, i look over my shoulder to see the vehicle. If they’re driving normally/responsibly my behavior will be different than if they’re a big truck or some other red flag vehicle type. Of course this isn’t a guarantee, but if i see an oversized pickup truck speeding on the road behind me I’m going to get as far over as i possibly can. If i look over my shoulder and i see a normal car with a driver who clearly sees me, I’ll hold my line, as you say. If there is oncoming traffic and a questionable vehicle approaching from behind, i might even get off the road completely, even if it means stopping in brush or grass.
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Old 11-12-21, 11:49 AM
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I don't even look. I just ride and hold my line. When I hear the engine rev up, I know they are about to pass.

With even just a 45 mph (72 kph) closure speed on you, the vehicle is gaining 66 feet per second (20 meters per second) on you.

So with normal reaction times you'll not know in time if the car intends to hurt you or not. At least not in time to do anything but be scared. I'd rather just not know.

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Old 11-12-21, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
So you are going to assume that any car that is going fast is going to hit you?
I can't see how you'll know a car is going to hit you till it's too late to do anything about it.
Not certainly in that way. My primary passive safety device is the rearview mirror mounted near the line of my sight. I try to regularly look in the mirror to get a rough picture of the situation behind me. Over the years I have trained myself to "scan" the road with using reflection in the mirror. But I am human, not cyborg. I can't use the mirror 100% of riding time. Also, I am not always able to reliably determine the speed of vehicles approaching me from behind.
That's why the idea with radar came to mind. Let the high-tech machine help. I consider all these devices as a complex system in which one element complements another. In my scenario, the radar complements the rearview mirror.
I suppose there should be more than one level of alert. For example, a car significantly exceeding average traffic speed (much faster than a certain threshold) should be considered as a highly dangerous.

Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
But my area and traffic aren't your area and traffic. So my choices might be different in your area than they are here.
True.
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Old 11-12-21, 02:07 PM
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My method has worked well for me for over 50 years. And essentially is just gets back to holding my line and not doing anything unexpected. I've never even owned a mirror for my bike.

And from my own encounters with others and passing them when I'm on a bike, it's the people with mirrors that cause me the most issues passing because they do those unexpected things when they see me coming up from behind them. And that creates an unsafe situation for everyone in the immediate area.

For certain most people with mirrors are no more a problem than any other. But the few people that are a problem for me passing do have mirrors. So every time I come upon someone that has mirrors, I'm a little more cautious of them.

Don't get me wrong about the Varia, I like them. I just got one myself and I'm use to how they work as my son that I ride with a lot has used one since they were first introduced.

Just don't make more of than they are intended to do. Just warn you that something is approaching from behind and not do something stupid like a U-turn or wander side to side on the road.

Last edited by Iride01; 11-12-21 at 02:13 PM.
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Old 11-12-21, 09:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post

And from my own encounters with others and passing them when I'm on a bike, it's the people with mirrors that cause me the most issues passing because they do those unexpected things when they see me coming up from behind them. And that creates an unsafe situation for everyone in the immediate area.

For certain most people with mirrors are no more a problem than any other. But the few people that are a problem for me passing do have mirrors. So every time I come upon someone that has mirrors, I'm a little more cautious of them.
a very unpopular opinion! but one I’m sorry to say i agree with. If I’m behind someone with a giant rear view mirror on their bike, the odds are higher than normal that they’re going to do something unpredictable or at the very least questionable.
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Old 11-13-21, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Primorsky View Post
My primary passive safety device is the rearview mirror mounted near the line of my sight. I try to regularly look in the mirror to get a rough picture of the situation behind me.
I consider the Varia a mirror enhancement. I live and ride more in the rural setting.
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Old 11-14-21, 03:23 PM
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My suggestion would be: get a Varia and use it before you start picking nits and think about modifying this or that to improve the functionality. I say this because there are two types of people - those who haven't used a Varia and those who have and who would immediately replace it if necessary. With some use, you will probably find that, out of the box, it does as much as you need it to do.
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Old 11-14-21, 04:12 PM
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I ride with a mirror and Varia.

The Garmin 1030 beep is way to weak to be useful.

The Varia only gives you about 400 feet of advance notice of approaching vehicle.

The runtime is pretty short.

If mine failed, I absolutely would not replace it.
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Old 11-14-21, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
The Garmin 1030 beep is way to weak to be useful.
That sounds like a 1030 problem, not a Varia problem. I haven't had any audibility issues with a Bolt or with a 530.

Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
The Varia only gives you about 400 feet of advance notice of approaching vehicle.
"Only"? Even with traffic approaching at highway speeds, I find it to be adequate notice to move from the passenger side tire track over to the shoulder.

Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
The runtime is pretty short.
Are you talking about battery life? I probably get 12 hours or more with Daytime Flash running.
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Old 11-15-21, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
The Varia only gives you about 400 feet of advance notice of approaching vehicle.

The runtime is pretty short.

If mine failed, I absolutely would not replace it.
If you only got 400 feet of notice then something was wrong. I notice of vehicles very far away and Garmin's claim of 153 yards (140 meters) seems pretty accurate and even conservative.

Run time on the non-lighted models is pretty short when compared to the lighted models. But still it's way longer than most people will ride at one time. I usually go two or three rides between charges on my RVR315 and it still has some battery charge left.
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Old 11-15-21, 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
I ride with a mirror and Varia.

The Garmin 1030 beep is way to weak to be useful.

The Varia only gives you about 400 feet of advance notice of approaching vehicle.

The runtime is pretty short.

If mine failed, I absolutely would not replace it.
​​​​​​Mine always tells me about cars before I hear them. Always.
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Old 11-15-21, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
I ride with a mirror and Varia.

The Garmin 1030 beep is way to weak to be useful.

The Varia only gives you about 400 feet of advance notice of approaching vehicle.

The runtime is pretty short.

If mine failed, I absolutely would not replace it.
Do you wear earbuds, or have a hearing impairment, or have you checked your 1030 setting? I have no issue hearing mine beep with 30+ MPH wind noise

Based on this demo/review, you're getting enough warning of a overtaking vehicle - the only place I'd say the distance isn't helpful on roads with 55+ MPH traffic (like the OP)


What is 'pretty short' run time? I charge my Varia on the same frequency as my headlights and other tech items. For reference, I used my Varia for the last 7+ hours of The DAMn (more cars and busier roads at the last half of the race, and I'm sleep-deprived). IMHO a short run time is the GoPro Hero 8, I'm lucky to get over an hour with that.

FWIW if my first gen Varia fails, I'll replace it with the latest model ASAP
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Old 11-16-21, 02:33 PM
  #21  
GhostRider62
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Originally Posted by Hypno Toad View Post
Do you wear earbuds, or have a hearing impairment, or have you checked your 1030 setting? I have no issue hearing mine beep with 30+ MPH wind noise

Based on this demo/review, you're getting enough warning of a overtaking vehicle - the only place I'd say the distance isn't helpful on roads with 55+ MPH traffic (like the OP)

https://youtu.be/Bv6t57LKg7I

What is 'pretty short' run time? I charge my Varia on the same frequency as my headlights and other tech items. For reference, I used my Varia for the last 7+ hours of The DAMn (more cars and busier roads at the last half of the race, and I'm sleep-deprived). IMHO a short run time is the GoPro Hero 8, I'm lucky to get over an hour with that.

FWIW if my first gen Varia fails, I'll replace it with the latest model ASAP
There is no setting for volume on the 1030.

I can hear it if riding slow but most of the time my speed is 25-30 mph and the wind and traffic noise overrides the dinky little beep. My ears are fine.

Runtime on mine is not close 16 hours flash or 6 hours steady mode.
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Old 11-16-21, 04:39 PM
  #22  
Iride01
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I have issues hearing the beep on my Garmin Edge 500 and Edge 530 when cycling at most any speed. However when I ride with my son and am within several bike lengths, I'll here his Edge 1030 plus when it beeps for a Varia alert. Go figure. I don't know that it's louder, but I think it has more frequencies to it's tone.

I think it's correct that none of the Garmin Edges have any volume control. Ideally, I'd get the Varia Vision if Garmin still made them. My son uses his every ride. So he never has to look down at the Edge for important things or even take his eyes off the road.

Maybe I can find a used one on eBay.
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Old 11-16-21, 05:45 PM
  #23  
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My watch vibrates when there's a car approaching. I have it silenced for everything else while I'm riding, so the buzz can only mean there's a car behind me.

I tend to ride towards the center of my lane when possible because the pavement is on better shape there and it's less cluttered with debris. I'll move right to let drivers pass me easily.
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Old 11-18-21, 01:19 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
If you only got 400 feet of notice then something was wrong. I notice of vehicles very far away and Garmin's claim of 153 yards (140 meters) seems pretty accurate and even conservative.
Product page has the dreaded "up to" qualifier on that 153yd/140m specification - so 400ft instead of 459ft (153yd) isn't that far out of line -- and it's possible Ghostride62 was approximating the distance as well.

Is that enough? I'd say it depends on one's situation. With a closing speed of 60mph - such as riding 10mph with traffic going past you at 70mph, you'd get 4.5 to 5 seconds warning. With a 30mph closing speed the time is 9-10 seconds.

All I know is on the roads I ride, my Varia tells me about cars before they're easily seen in my mirror, and I can easily hear the alert tone on my 830. Maybe the system isn't perfect, but I'm better aware of cars than when I was just using a mirror.
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Old 11-18-21, 05:34 PM
  #25  
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I find my Varia is excellent at alerting on cars that are far, far back - more than 400 ft I'm sure, but I can't say if it's 1000 or 1500ft. I simply haven't thought about it until this thread.
I live in Iowa, a lot of our roads are flat so maybe that helps?
Paired with an 830 and I find the beeps quite loud, rarely can I not hear the beep.
I know what people mean when you're in a ton of traffic - the activity from the Varia is just overwhelming. My position on this is that when the traffic is that heavy, every car is trying to run you over, so yes the Varia is "usless" at the point, right?
I have to say, people complaining about the accuracy\count in heavy traffic are wishing for more than a simple radar unit can provide. As a programmer, all these people should step up and help write the code to accomplish the magnificent things that they wish for.
Ride on!
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