Almost every car or truck driver who ever collided with a motorcycle typically retorts with, “I just didn’t see them.” Although this response irritates those on two-wheels, there’s no question motorcyclists (and bicyclists, for that matter) are harder to see than cars simply because they’re smaller. That’s where the Cosmo Connected comes in.
Available via the crowdfunding site Kickstarter for $79, the Cosmo Connected is a helmet-mounted LED brake light that uses an internal accelerometer to sense deceleration, triggering a bright oval of red LEDs. It has a magnetic mount for easy installation and removal and connects via Bluetooth to a free companion app on an iOS or Android smartphone — of which allows users to configure a variety of custom emergency alerts. It comes in several colors and finishes including black, white, and silver.
Digital Trends was given an early prototype of the Cosmo Connected to try out. None of the advanced features were ready yet, but we nonetheless got a feel for what it was like to ride with it. Here’s our first take.
Simply put, a helmet is the only logical place to place a brake light. It’s the highest (therefore, the most visible) point on a rider and in most countries and states, it’s required by law to wear one. The Cosmo Connected uses a magnetic mount that adheres to the back of a helmet with a non-damaging adhesive, and the brake light housing snaps into place as soon as it’s a few inches away.
There’s no on button as a user simply gives the housing a solid tap on one side and the LEDs light up twice when on. It turns off after two minutes of inactivity, but don’t worry – it’s very sensitive and won’t turn off simply because you’re resting at a long red light. For its primary mission as a highly visible extra brake light, that’s all there is to it — you’re good to get on the road and let the Cosmo’s sensors determine when you’re slowing down. Because the brake light comes on during any deceleration (and not just when you apply the brakes) it gives following drivers a much more accurate sense of your change in speed.
We found that the Cosmo was bright enough to be seen clearly even during the day, though we did not get a chance to see it in full, direct sunlight.
There’s an app for that
If the brake light function were the only benefit to using the Cosmo Connected, we’d argue it’s already worth the price of admission in terms of the extra visibility it offers. But the free app turns the device into a fall sensor, with the ability to set three levels of response based on the severity of the fall. We didn’t get a chance to try this feature out as it’s still under development, though it does sound promising. In theory, you could arrange for emergency responders to come to the last known GPS location of your phone if no further movement is detected after a fall. Or, if the fall wasn’t that bad, an alert could be sent to a friend or family member who could then decide what action should be taken if they can’t get in touch with you.
The app also shows you remaining battery life and lets you control how the LEDs on the brake light behave. You can choose to have them come on only while braking, activated all the time for extra visibility, or set them to flashing for emergency signaling (handy if you’re stuck at the side of the road).
It’s hard to find fault with the Cosmo’s design. It’s weatherproof, easy to operate, highly visible when braking, and can quickly swap between helmets if you buy additional magnet mounts. However, it simply won’t work for all riders. The curved shape and rubber gasket are designed to work with helmets that have a smooth, continuous radius on the rear surface; not every helmet does. Our three-quarter Daytona helmet was nearly a perfect match for the Cosmo’s curves, with only a tiny gap between the helmet and the gasket. However, our Schuberth M1 proved to be incompatible thanks to its integrated rear vent and non-continuous surfaces.
We’d love to see a lower-profile version in the future.
The biggest oversight, however, is that the Cosmo Connected doesn’t act like a true rear light. Normally, a rear light is always lit for general visibility and then glows brighter to indicate braking. Not so with the Cosmo, which can turn on for braking or be set to always-on (at the same intensity as the braking mode), but it can’t do both. During a briefing phone call, Digital Trends discussed this with Cosmo Connected COO, Laurent de Bernede. Impressively, in a follow-up email, he told us that this would be fixed by the time the product is ready to ship to backers.
The Cosmo is a bit on the bulky side. When attached, the large profile isn’t a problem — you won’t even notice it’s there. We think it looks a little goofy sticking out as far as it does but that’s hardly a deal-breaker unless looks are everything (in which case you probably aren’t interested in a helmet-mounted brake light at all). We’d love to see a lower-profile version in the future.
The company is also working to strengthen the magnets used in the mounts. The prototype we tested certainly seemed to be well anchored and didn’t come off unless intentionally removed, but neither did we hit any major potholes in an attempt to dislodge it. Stronger magnets could only improve this.
There’s also no indicator that the brake light is charging when connected to a micro-USB power cord, and thus no way to know when it’s done charging unless you consult the app. Yet another feature de Bernede told us may be addressed in a future version.
If a better braking indicator for motorcycles seems like something that ought to already exist, you’d be right — it does. The $99 GearBrake, for instance, offers the same accelerometer-based deceleration detection and response as the Cosmo Connected but alters the behavior of your bike’s existing rear light. The company claims it gives following drivers an extra one-second warning, which is good in theory but if a driver fails to notice it, it won’t help. We think the Cosmo’s extra high mounting position is far more visible.
Then there’s the $99 BrakeFree — another crowdfunded device — which has the same, magnet-mounted helmet position and accelerometer-triggering as the Cosmo. While it lights up the same way as a regular tail light, it lacks the Cosmo’s app-enabled emergency functions.
The $72 CDN EZC Smartlight places the brake light anywhere on a rider’s clothing, giving it good visibility but it requires wiring it into the vehicle, and some light damage to the apparel in question. It’s not designed to be moved from location to location and only responds to brake application, not other kinds of deceleration.
We even found a shockingly inexpensive $17 helmet light on BangGood.com that not only acts as a brake light but also as a turn signal, too. It mounts directly to a helmet with adhesive and requires the included transmitter to be wired into your bike’s lighting system.
Should you back it?
Plain and simple, we really like the Cosmo Connected. It provides a simple, affordable, and flexible solution to a problem that’s plagued bikers forever. Its helmet-mounted position is ideal for enhanced visibility, giving the driver behind you — and likely several more behind them — a much better sense of your slowing speed.
We can’t speak to its emergency contact functions but so far, the Cosmo Connected looks like a great, if not perfect, add-on for any safety-minded rider. Our short time with the prototype suggests this device is almost ready for production, which should ease the minds of those who may not want to back a crowdfunded project.