Reinventing The Wheel


Liat Clark investigates a new idea from collaborators at the MIT SENSEable City Laboratory: the Copenhagen Wheel, a “smart” wheel “that can be attached to almost any bike, transforming it into an electric hybrid that powers up seamlessly when you need it most”:

Unlike other similar products coming to market — including the FlyKly, which recently smashed its Kickstarter target by $600,000 — Superpedestrian’s unit (which slots on to your back wheel) is not about powering up continually to save your lazy legs. A series of sensors are embedded in the red casing, which track your speed, incline, pedal-pushing prowess and other factors, in order to calculate when you need the power most. As such, the battery-powered 5.5kg pack will save energy, while also recharging every time you brake, powering up to speeds of 32km/h with a range of 48km. …

[Superpedestrian founder Assaf] Biderman is secretive about the magic formula that goes into making the red unit run, and part of the system will be patented after the first stock ships in 2014. Those cogs and sensors are what makes the power seamless and smart, with all that data being fed to a smartphone app so the user can track their route and progress and share it with other like-minded cycling enthusiasts in real time. He would tell us that it houses the usual inertial sensors you might expect — accelerometers, gyroscopes, rotational and heading sensors — a GPS sensor and a strain guage. In total there are 12.

Biderman envisions “a whole ecosystem of apps around the product”:

“… It could help you find that route that many people like you have identified as ideal by gathering information from the environment, whether it’s potholes, how much elevation up and down or by comparing statistics with others. … Riders could opt in and share information about where everybody moves together — municipalities would love to know.”

(Image of the Copenhagen Wheel via Superpedestrian)