Bicycles

Prototype e-bike uses steering-assist to keep seniors upright

Prototype e-bike uses steering...
Test riders have reported that the system does help them to maintain stability while cycling
Test riders have reported that the system does help them to maintain stability while cycling
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An inertial measurement unit (an accelerometer/gyroscope combo) tracks the bike's movements at speeds over 4 km/h (2.5 mph) – motion data is analyzed by an onboard microprocessor
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An inertial measurement unit (an accelerometer/gyroscope combo) tracks the bike's movements at speeds over 4 km/h (2.5 mph) – motion data is analyzed by an onboard microprocessor
The prototype e-bike has an electric motor that gently turns the handlebars
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The prototype e-bike has an electric motor that gently turns the handlebars
Test riders have reported that the system does help them to maintain stability while cycling
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Test riders have reported that the system does help them to maintain stability while cycling

While it's important for seniors to stay active, their decreased sense of balance does increase their risk of being in a bicycle accident. The Netherlands' Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) is attempting to address that situation, with a steering-assist-equipped e-bike.

Developed in partnership with bicycle manufacturer Royal Dutch Gazelle, the prototype electric-assist bicycle incorporates an inertial measurement unit (an accelerometer/gyroscope combo) that tracks the bike's movements at speeds over 4 km/h (2.5 mph). That motion data is analyzed by an onboard microprocessor, utilizing a previously-developed mathematical model that predicts bicycle stability based on 25 physical parameters.

If it's determined that the bike is about to tip over, an electric motor built into the steerer tube will gently turn the handlebars, in order to keep that from happening. Although the technology still needs to be developed further, some test riders have already reported that it does help them to keep the bike upright.

The prototype e-bike has an electric motor that gently turns the handlebars
The prototype e-bike has an electric motor that gently turns the handlebars

"We now want to study what kind of assistance is appreciated by the cyclist and when, and of course we will also be testing the safety of the system," says TU Delft researcher Dr. Arend Schwab.

A commercially-available product is likely still a few years away. In the meantime, interested readers might also want to check out the University of Twente's Sofie, a prototype e-bike designed specifically for seniors.

Source: TU Delft

3 comments
Trylon
A tricycle is naturally stable without the need for sensors, processors, batteries and software, especially the "tadpole" configuration with two wheels in the front and one in the back.
piperTom
So the bike's computer overrides the commands of the human pilot? The lessons from Boeing and the 737max go unlearned.
Nik
If a person cannot ride a bicycle without assistance, then they shouldn't! Think about this scenario: A person realises that they have made a mistake, and is about to ride in front of an oncoming vehicle, so they swerve violently to avoid it, and are about to fall off. The cycle then corrects the steering and consequently the person then rolls in front of the vehicle, probably for the last time, ever! If they have balance problems, then, three or four wheels should be their choice, they may well live longer, and healthier! My mother fell off her bicycle at the age of 70. She broke an arm, and had a lot of bruising to her face, and other parts of her body, her helmet probably saved her from a fractured skull. My advice to her was, ''Use a taxi!'' She took it.