Indian students’ i-Bike to rejuvenate global bike sharing

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India – A team of 13 undergraduate students from various departments of IIT Kharagpur (ITT KGP) have won gold award (INR 500,000) for their “i-Bike” project at KPIT Sparkle 2016, a national design and development innovation contest for engineering and science students across India.

Team KGP competed with over 10,000 students from across 500 colleges in India, the theme for which was “Smart Solutions for Energy and Transportation”. The competition received over 1,700 innovative entries and 54 best teams made it to the grand finale, where the top shortlisted teams presented their innovative and sustainable solutions through scale models and working prototypes.

i-Bike is the fruition of a sincere quest among a group of IIT KGP students to come up with an autonomous bicycle model. This model has a three-way hybrid character, combining manual, electric and autonomous components, which means that the bicycle can ride itself autonomously, but can also be ridden manually whenever required.

The overall design of the bicycle is achieved by modifying a normal bicycle to incorporate unique mechanical design elements in terms of driving, balancing, steering and braking mechanisms. The modifications are highly customisable and independent of each other, providing a wide range of applications according to the needs of the situation.

i-Bike’s unique dual-locomotion technology ensures that autonomy can be brought about without hindering any of its natural functionalities. Wireless control and live tracking mechanisms are enabled through wireless telephone network. In autonomous mode, the bicycle has a novel and affordable software architecture, which enables it to follow specialised bicycle lanes and avoid obstacles, even as it maintains its global and local positions.

While it is universally acknowledged that bike sharing can lessen the burden on the environment as well as reduce vehicular congestion in cities, this mode of public transport has not taken off in a big way, mainly due to the last-mile transportation issue. The problem of access to and from stations where they can pick up a bicycle or drop it off has restricted the success of bike sharing models. A bicycle that can ride itself around through programmed instructions naturally solves the issue.

Another very encouraging feature of i-Bike is that it requires minimal challenges to the existing infrastructure. All modifications required in the physical model itself can be implemented on existing bicycles of any make. The stations can also be located anywhere; the location of the i-Bike will be continuously updated on the server through GPS, and any deviation from its determined path will stop the bicycle and notify the station in charge. This will also prevent stealing and loss due to electronic glitches.