More falls with bicyclesThe Dutch road safety institute SWOV (Stichting Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Verkeersveiligheid) has established that the number of serious traffic accidents is decreasing every year. However, with cyclists the accident rate actually increased some 30% from 2000 to 2010. Serious bicycle accidents are often the result of the cyclist losing control over the bicycle. In many cases this cyclist is an older person.
The TU Delft and Gazelle want to do something about this. The Dutch bicycle is renowned for it safety. This is largely because of the high degree of steering stability and the upright sitting position. Now that there are increasing numbers of e-bikes, which are typically heavier and faster than the ‘normal’ city bicycles, additional attention to bicycle safety is timely.
PrototypeTo make the bicycle safer, TU Delft and Gazelle jointly developed a prototype of an electric bike with steering assistance. This steering assistance system is the first in the world that can maintain a bicycle upright using a motor in the steering tube. This motor adjusts the steering when the cyclist threatens to fall over. ‘This system keeps the bike and its rider stable at speeds above 4 km/h’, says researcher Dr. Arend Schwab from the TU Delft.
Fundamental scienceThe prototype combines fundamental scientific knowledge from the TU Delft, combined with practical experience from Gazelle. In the past 15 years, TU Delft has researched why bicycles do or do not fall. A few years ago already, Schwab and colleagues published theories in scientific publications about the stability of the bicycle.
AlgorithmsBased on this research, the idea arose of actively supporting the rider and make the bicycle even more stable, through a steering-assist system. The technical realisation is not that difficult: a sensor is required that measures how fast the bicycle is falling, a small motor that can adjust the handlebars and a processor that drives the motor. The difficult part is mainly the finding of good algorithms for the processor to work with.
TestingMuch research is still required before the steering-assist is ready for use by the consumer. The prototype is now mostly used to test how users experience the steering-assist, and to determine which kind of assistance works best. The first results do indicate that some people do find it easier to keep the bicycle upright.
The steering-assist system is described in Science.
Source: TU Delft
Video: TU Delft