A prototype electric bike with smart steering assistance is in the works, thanks to a collaboration between TU Delft and bicycle manufacturer Koninklijke Gazelle. If the cyclists is in danger of tipping over, the bike’s smart motors in the handlebars will adjust the steering. The system also maintains a stable speed above 4 km/h.
“It’s actually technically quite simple,” says TU Delft researcher Dr. Arend Schwab. “You need a sensor that detects when the bike is falling over, a motor that can adjust the steering and a processor to control the motor. The hardest part is finding the right algorithms for the processor, which was where our scientific research into bicycle stability proved enormously important.”
The two are responding to a growing need for cyclist safety, especially with elderly riders, in the Netherlands. TU Delft brings 15 years of experience studying the mechanics of bikes falling over, while the folks over at Koninklijke Gazelle bring their practical expertise to the table.
“We developed a mathematical model with some 25 physical parameters that successfully predicted the stability of a bicycle design at various speeds. We also experimentally proved that the insights behind the theory were correct,” Schwab says.
The collaborative effort on the steer-assist bike already earned the two the National Sport Innovator Award in 2016. Furthermore, the team received “a grant from NWO’s Perspective program Citius, Altius, Sanius to spend the next four years improving the system,” according to Schwab.
There’s still a lot of work to be done until the steer-assist system is consumer ready. For now, the prototype is undergoing user experience tests.