The term driverless isn’t anything new and it is probably most known in relation to cars and Google’s self-driving car project that’s been going on for years now. But we’ve also heard of driverless lorries coming to the UK, driverless pods in London, and even driverless Formula E racing as well as oversized quad-copters for personal usage, but driverless bicycles is one I haven’t heard of before.
The driverless bike, or i-Bike as it has been named, is the brainchild of Ayush Pandey and Subhamoy Mahajan, two students from IIT Kharagpur, India. The whole idea started with an idea that is as noble as the result is brilliant: The two wanted to build a simple vehicle that could help disabled people get more out of life by increasing their freedom. Now that’s an idea we all can get behind.
The i-Bike has autonomous steering, brakes, driving, and balancing mechanisms that can work completely on their own as well as aids to just help you with the part that might be troublesome for you.
Just riding a bicycle wasn’t the only problem the students tried to solve, parking and retrieving a bike can be equally challenging for a disabled person as bicycle locations by default rarely have much in disability friendliness. You wouldn’t expect them to ride a bicycle, so it isn’t out of bad intentions.
“We saw some differently abled people who could ride bicycles but had to face many problems when trying to take their bikes out from the parking space, as most such spaces are not disabled friendly. To tackle this problem we started working to make a bicycle that would be controlled wirelessly,” says Ayush, a fourth year Mechanical Engineering student
You can ride the i-Bike manually or you can get help from the dual locomotion technology. The autonomous driving is handled with the help of GPS as well as lasers and sonar based sensors to avoid obstacles in its path. The destination is set by an Android app that sends an SMS to the i-Bike. Upon receiving this, it will start its journey.
None of the techniques used is new as such, but this combination of them is awesome. It has a unique and affordable software architecture that enables it to follow specialised bicycle lanes as they are found in many countries already. It also offers live tracking and wireless control mechanism on top of all that.
What started as a team of two is now comprised of 13 undergraduate students from various departments of IIT Kharagpur, all working together and making up the i-Bike team. Since the project was started back in October 2014, the team has won several awards, most recently the innovation challenge organised by KPIT Technologies where they won first prize.
The trainer wheels that have been used for balancing can easily be retracted by a switch and the same goes for the steering aids that also can be turned on and off by the flick of a switch.
The i-Bike could solve many problems in urban cities and crowded spaces. Whether you want to prevent theft by sending you bike home, retrieve it where ever you are in order to get home, or just want to send it on a cruise of its own, the i-Bike can do it. It would also allow new options for bicycle sharing centres where you could rent a bike, drive where you need to go, and then send it back home again on its own. The same way you could order it back via your smartphone no matter where you are located, and you won’t even have to pedal yourself.
Once the team has the patent, they plan to collaborate with companies willing to start bicycle sharing centres in India – and hopefully this kind of technology will make it to the rest of the world too.