Wireless Brakes for Bikes Developed by Computer Scientists

bike downhill photo

Would you trust wireless breaks when heading down this hill?? Photo by thenoizz via Flickr CC

Scientists at Saarland University have come up with a brake system for bikes that may take awhile to trust. The brakes work wirelessly. It sounds a little risky to potentially trust your life with a wireless brake system but according to the researchers, their new system works perfectly 99.999999999997% of the time. This bike ditches the brake lever on the handlebars and the cable running down the frame, and instead has a rubber handle that only needs to be squeezed, and a lump of electronics on the frame by the wheel. The tighter a rider squeezes, the harder the disk brake presses on the wheel to slow the bike.

Science Daily reports:

It seems as if a ghost hand is in play, but a combination of several electronic components enables the braking. Integrated in the rubber grip is a pressure sensor, which activates a sender if a specified pressure threshold is crossed. The sender is integrated in a blue plastic box which is the size of a cigarette packet and is attached to the handlebar. Its radio signals are sent to a receiver attached at the end of the bicycle's fork. The receiver forwards the signal to an actuator, transforming the radio signal into the mechanical power by which the disk brake is activated. To enhance reliability, there are additional senders attached to the bicycle. These repeatedly send the same signal. In this way, the scientists hope to ensure that the signal arrives at the receiver in time, even if the connection causes a delay or fails.

The researchers tested the reliability of the brake system using mathematical calculations that are also used in control systems for aircraft or chemical factories. That means the safety level is probably accurate, and you most likely won't have issues with the brakes not working should you hop on this bike and head downhill. Still, it seems a little unnerving to move away from time-tested brakes you can see working with levers to something wireless like this.

But why a wireless brake system at all? Turns out, this is just the starting point for wireless brake systems for larger transportation vehicles, including trains and airplanes.

"The wireless bicycle brake gives us the necessary playground to optimize these methods for operation in much more complex systems," Professor Holger Hermanns stated in the article.

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