A newly designed computer-based bicycle shifting aide described in the latest issue of the International Journal of Human Factors Modeling and Simulation (subscription only access) is one step back from being an automatic transmission for bikes.
Apparently, sensors for speed, road slope, and "work" send rolling-average, or otherwise "smoothed," numbers to an on-board bike computer (no photos available). The computer digitally processes the information with an optimizing algorithm, sufficient to provide regular feedback to the bicyclist, who synchronizes his/her movement of the derailleur controls, accordingly. The general idea is to to optimize the timing and sequence of gear changing, which results in more efficient use by non-expert riders. For further description, see below:
Caveat: I wouldn't touch one of these unless the inventors were themselves avid cyclists. Otherwise, there's a risk of it being grossly over-engineered. Look at your television remote if you want an extreme example of this issue.
T.Y. Lin, Y.C. Chen, and H.C. Ping at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, at National Defence University, Tashi, Taiwan, ROC, explain how ergonomic studies show that cyclists can be in an optimum state during cycling with a fixed output power and cadence (pedaling speed). They have now developed a computer algorithm that gives any cyclist a gear shift strategy to cope with almost any cycling conditions and maintain this optimal state without reducing comfort.Via:Science Centric, The Auto Change Bicycle
Although pictures and diagrams would help a lot, the design concept seems like it woud be useful.
"By following the sequence, riders can operate the derailleur system more easily," says the team, "Riders will also feel comfortable because all gear-ratios can be used, and gear-shifting actions will be smoother." The computer will automatically adjust to riding conditions, satisfying the human element. It would not be hard to imagine extending the concept to entirely automatic mechanical gear-changing system.Via:Science Centric, The Auto Change Bicycle
'Set your handle-bar phaser to stun.'
Perhaps a useful next-step for the designers would be to add a forward-looking infrared sensor which detects a human presence in a parallel parked vehicle, and then blasts a paralyzing sound wave in response to a door coming open.
Update: this is pure research as far as can be determined by the source cited. There is no identifiable product yet, no manufacturer, and no retailer to contact.
More from our archives about bicycle gear shifting.
The Ellsworth Ride with NuVinci CVP Hub
BuyGreen: Small Wheel Folding Bikes
Schwinn's New Line of Electric Bikes
Chainless Shaft Drive Bicycle Transmissions by Sussex