A team of undergraduates at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, have designed a driver-less bicycle that they say can assist the differently-abled and lower emissions.
The 13-member team of students from various departments of the institute collaborated to build the three-way hybrid (manual + electric + autonomous) vehicle by modifying an ordinary bicycle.
"i-Bike is a bicycle model which can drive itself autonomously and also be driven manually as and when required. The product can be used by people with varied disabilities who have trouble steering or pedalling or both.
"It will essentially provide freedom to the blind as well as the hand amputees for whom personal transportation is a big issue," said Ayush Pandey of IIT-Kgp's electrical engineering department.
Pandey and Subhamoy Mahajan from mechanical engineering are the fourth year students who initiated the project in October, 2014.
It also has a green side to it.
"Due to its three-way hybrid nature, it is ideal for bike-sharing systems - which could lead to huge profits and increase in bicycle usage throughout the world - leading to lower emissions and healthier society," said Pandey.
Other features include wi-fi connectivity and positioning.
"The bicycle remains in a wireless telephone network which provides wireless control and live tracking mechanisms. In autonomous mode, the bicycle has novel and affordable software architecture which enables it to follow specialised bicycle lanes and avoid obstacles in its way while maintaining its global and local positions."
Pandey and his team mates claim "the product does not exist anywhere in the world and is an invention of the undergraduate students of IIT Kharagpur who have been working on this for the past one year. A patent application for the same is also in progress."
"The cost of the prototype was less than Rs.30,000 and when scaled up due to manufacturing would cost even less. The electric bikes available on Saturday cost around Rs.35,000 to Rs.50,000," added Pandey.
At the KPIT Sparkle innovation challenge, the i-Bike project was awarded the gold prize for the best product in the competition. The team won a prize money of Rs.5 lakh.