Self-driving technology isn't solely the domain of cars and trucks – bikes are getting in on the act too. We spied the latest example at Eurobike in Germany, where CoModule showed a smartphone-controlled, three-wheeled e-bike prototype. The concept is designed to stimulate a conversation about the sorts of practical applications this technology could find in the real-world.
At the heart of the three-wheeler is CoModule's embedded electronics, which include Bluetooth LE, GPS and GSM/GPRS connectivity. The vehicle itself is based on a cargo bike by Veleon, with a Heinzmann motor and 350 Wh battery. The three-wheel setup has obvious advantages in terms of stability, and it can also tilt at higher speeds, allowing for more stable cornering.
The prototype e-bike we saw at Friedrichshafen could be controlled using an Android application, with the ability to move forwards, stop and steer the bike remotely. Turning the vehicle is handled by pressing down on a virtual button and tilting the smartphone, as pictured below.
CoModule says that the with some additional tweaks and GPS coordinated punched in, the concept can operate autonomously in a closed environment.
The company already has some ideas for how the vehicle could be utilized in the near-future, such as using it as an autonomous bicycle to accompany postal service workers on deliveries, or attaching a trash can to the front to help out park cleaners.
There are also more ambitious uses envisaged for further down the line, such as autonomous deliveries in urban areas.
The smart-phone controlled prototype is also designed to showcase the company's core cloud connectivity platform. CoModule believes that by integrating its electronics into bicycles, manufacturers can create much more solid relationships with their end users by gathering useful data to help streamline their business models, such as when, where and how their bikes are being used. This would also enable them to continue their relationships with customers long after the point of sale, providing offers to loyal customers, or suggesting riders get their bicycle serviced after a certain distance travelled.
The possibilities, from CoModule's point of view, are almost endless. It's early days for both the wider platform, and for more specific products like the prototype bike. The company plans to start showing its concept vehicle to interested parties (such as postal services) in the near future. The prototype we saw in action at Eurobike looked close to being ready for such applications, so it's not outside the realms of possibility that you might see the tech in use before too long.