Autonomous Vehicles

Published on March 22nd, 2016 | by James Ayre


UK Startup Creates Riderless Electric Bike Prototype

March 22nd, 2016 by  

Originally published on EV Obsession.

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.

Riderless bike Sparky Automotive

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

Reprinted with permission.

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Joe Viocoe

    I hope we’re not experiencing Holiday drift with April Fools Day now.

    Getting early and early as media folk grow desperate for the attention and to fool people.

  • Bob_Wallace

    I like the idea. Bike, three wheeler is probably better. Have one meet you at your door and drop you off at your door. Then take itself off to an out of the way place to park and charge.

    “Central Command” could redistribute bikes/trikes if there are too few in one area.

    Properly designed theft should be a small problem at worst. Rig them up so that they can be turned on only by CC and equip them with geosensors so that if one is being moved an alarm is sent.

  • egriff5514

    Its not April 1 already, is it?

    • Karl the brewer

      Hmmmm, my thoughts exactly. Shonky MTB with what can best be described as a Pentium 286 era PC attached to the bike rack. Good to see it has a bell though 😉

  • nitpicker357

    Shades of ghost rider from the DARPA Grand Challenge(2007 edition). That was a motorcycle, but I tend to think of e-bikes as motorcycles, anyway.

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