Students invent self-driving cycle

Students invent self-driving cycle

Smart commute

What began as an idea to develop a bicycle that could assist differently-abled people in autonomous parking and retrieval, soon began evolving into a device that also has the capability to revolutionise the current urban transport system.

Conceptualised by a team comprising 13 undergraduate students from various departments of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, the i-bike is such a bicycle in the making, which they say is ideal for use in existing bicycle sharing systems in major developed cities around the world.

“Bicycle is an unstable system (when autonomous, it would instantly fall down). Electronic control mechanisms have been researched, but no bicycle in the world is close to running on roads because they are not robust. So, we went for passive stability by using torsional spring-based trainer wheel mechanisms (mechanical control). This keeps the bicycle stable at all times and robust to disturbances as well,” says team member Ayush Pandey, a student of electrical engineering.

He adds that however, making a vehicle run autonomously at all times is something which isn’t feasible in the current scenario, and hence they developed the bicycle such that it can be driven manually as well as autonomously. “Now, i-bike could be used in existing bike-sharing systems. For example, a user can call the bicycle to a given GPS location using a dedicated Android app. The bicycle would receive the command and start its motion towards the GPS coordinates.

The i-bike would avoid all obstacles it would perceive in the way and safely manoeuvre to the final destination,” Pandey tells Metrolife.The team explains that the bicycle has sensors and actuators to help it move. It perceives the obstacles and the lanes using sensor data, the steering is controlled (using a motor) and the drive motor in the rear wheel helps in translation. All this has been made possible with help of sturdy balancing wheels which provide the required tilt and keeps the bicycle system stable. Using a latch and a press of a switch, the i-bike is capable of running in manual mode just like a normal bicycle and vice versa.

“The autonomous steering, autonomous braking, autonomous drive and balancing mechanisms are things which could make the life of a physically challenged person easy in terms of commute. The steering hub is modified using innovative gear mechanism which allows for both autonomous and manual mode,” he says.

However, the team, which recently won an award of Rs 5 lakh at the KPIT Sparkle 2016, an All India Science and Engineering Students Contest, adds that the autonomous mode is not only for differently-abled people, and is just one application of the bicycle.

The students say that all developments have been completed and rigorous testing on actual roads with obstacles has been done. They add that improvements are needed on the planning and controls part, which are currently underway.So once in the market, what will the usage charges be like?

“Since the technology developed is cheap and the bicycle could be used in a sharing system, the charges for use could be very low. Also, governments are always looking to promote bicycle usage; hence the subsidised cost to the user would be much lower compared to auto rickshaws and bus,” says Pandey.

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