A riderless (semi-autonomous) electric bicycle prototype has reportedly been created by a crowdfunded London-based startup known as Sparky Automotive. Utilizing electronic gyroscope technology similar to the Segway, the riderless electric bicycle can apparently safely work its way through road junctions, traffic lights, and pedestrian crosswalks in a similar way to an autonomous car according to those involved.
Despite the “riderless” moniker, control is to some degree provided by “virtual riders” influencing speed and direction — via a wireless connection, with handlebar-mounted cameras providing a video feed.
The Sparky Automotive Technical Director, Martin Langley, commented: “If you think about it, controlling an electric bike remotely is not really very different from controlling a drone. There is also the advantage that nobody is irritatingly overflown by a road bike so licensing is simplified too. After some thought we also realized that there are a surprising number of uses for a device like this. Simple examples being collection of shopping for the elderly and disabled, and rapid delivery of small packages without the expense of a driver.”
Of course, with the relative proliferation in recent years of dedicated bike lanes, paths, etc, the use of a riderless bike would be less dangerous than previously. That said, will people on bike paths and in bike lanes really want to share the “road” with an empty bike? I also have to wonder… These bikes would be rather easy to steal would they not?
Green Car Congress provides some background on the company:
Sparky was founded by a group of Brunel University Alumni. Their initial prototype was a traditional 3-door hatchback glider with an electric powertrain added. With a 32 kWh pack, it offered a driving range of around 160 miles (250km).
Martin Langley stated: “Leaving aside the issues of range and initial pricing, many motorists still do not realize the practical value of electrics including not needing petrol and being virtually maintenance free. Add to that the tax and subsidy benefits of zero emissions and you have a value proposition easily comparable with traditional automotive fueled cars.”
Image Credit: Sparky Automotive