2016 has started with a bang for students at IIT Kharagpur. Close on the heels of winning the India finals of the Hult Prize, another team of 13 undergraduate students from various departments of the Institute have won the ‘Gold award’ of Rs 5 lakh for their ‘i-Bike’ project at the 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 in this competition, the theme for which was ‘Smart Solutions for Energy and Transportation.’ The competition received over 1700 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.
What is the i-Bike?
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 drive itself autonomously, but also be driven around 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 customizable and independent of each other, providing a wide range of applications according to the needs of the situation.
The 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.
A green solution to myriad mobility challenges
Members of the i-Bike team share that the dream of an autonomous bike grew out of a desire to support the mobility needs of differently-abled people. The aim was to devise a model which would allow autonomous rides, parking and retrieval, thus helping the mobility-challenged. As it evolved however, it became apparent that the project upon realisation could also go a long way in solving last mile connectivity issues that most urban centres are grappling with today.
While it is universally acknowledged public bicycles for travelling from one place to another is a dire need today, for the environment as well as for reduction of vehicular congestion in cities, the reason thatbike sharing has not taken off in a big way is the problem surrounding last-mile transportation. The problem of access to and from stations where they can pick up a cycle 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 the i-Bike is that it requires minimal challenges to 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.
Here, therefore, is a model that can not only help the physically challenged to move about independently, but also one that can provide a cost-effective, environmentally sustainable solution to a key problem in our urban hubs. The team points out that the cost of the prototype was less than Rs 30,000; when scaled up, it is expected to be even less.
In a release from the organisers, Dr. R. A. Mashelkar, Head, Innovation Council, KPIT said, “It is heartening to see that today’s youth is motivated to solve problems that need urgent solutions…The projects and working models presented at the grand finale were highly impressive, not only in terms of ideation but also because they are cost effective and potential game changers. I congratulate the winners and wish them the very best for taking their ideas to greater heights.”