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.

"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

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