Augment my ride—the future of e-bikes in Queensland

Cars are not the only electric vehicles set to embrace connected and automated technology, with QUT researchers looking at augmented reality for e-bikes to make them safer and provide a more enjoyable ride.

Dr Ronald Schroeter, from QUT’s Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q), said augmented reality had the potential to provide real-time information that improved rider safety, such as projecting blind spot visualisations and navigating riders through the safest routes.

Dr Schroeter said cycling was one of the fastest growing modes of transport in Australia, yet Brisbane’s hilly terrain and humid climate meant it was not the best fit for bikes, at least not the push type.

“Not only are we seeing a greater uptake in the use of electric bikes, we are also seeing a change in the type of riders,” Dr Schroeter said.

“Today the e-bike is not just for older cyclists who are looking for an easier ride—they are now common with commuters, university students, and delivery drivers who see the benefits.”

Dr Schroeter said this higher demand highlighted the need to plan for both the increase in number of riders, as well as more inexperienced riders on our roads.

“By designing innovative interactive devices, it will be possible to improve safety and the enjoyment of riders.”

Dr Markus Rittenbruch, from QUT’s Design Lab, said developing display and interactive technology that directly integrated with bicycles offered huge potential in the future.

“How and what this augmented reality looks like is still up for discussion, but what we do know is that in recent years we have seen the emergence of devices, applications, and services aimed at improving both safety and enjoyability of the cycling experience,” he said.

“We believe that interaction and ubiquitous technologies can play a role in increasing the safe uptake of cycling, leading to fewer crashes.

“For example, technology could be used to connect bikes to other bikes and infrastructure, in the same way we are looking to connect cars to other cars and infrastructure.”

Dr Rittenbruch said cyclists were vulnerable road users who were poorly protected with helmets, their only safety device.

“Adverse road conditions such as potholes, gravel, and slippery wet leaves can have an instant impact on a rider’s ability to control their bike with potentially severe consequences,” Dr Rittenbruch said.

“As an example, we believe that it is possible to develop the technology and the interface to safely share this information cyclist-to-cyclist and other with authorities in charge of fixing the safety issue.

“There is also the untapped potential of cars talking to bikes and alerting the rider of heavy traffic ahead or if a vehicle is approaching at a risky speed.”

Dr Rittenbruch said the potential of automated technology and the use of augmented reality interlocking with e-bikes in the future was virtually limitless.

Local Brisbane e-bike distributer Nick Willis is seeing first-hand the changes within the industry.

“What we have seen over the past five years at Electric Bikes Brisbane is that e-bikes have definitely encouraged more people to leave their car at home,” Mr Willis said.

“Particularly since Queensland adopted the new European Standard allowing the more powerful 250 watt motors back in 2013.

“More and more two-car families are ditching one of their cars in favour of an e-bike and we are also seeing school leavers opting to get an electric bike instead of a car, some determined never to buy a car.

“As a form of transport this generates significant financial savings (around $150/week) but our e-bikers are also getting fitter and healthier because they are building light exercise into their daily routines. This has enormous additional benefits for our health and community welfare.”

Continuing its commitment to the safety of cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians, CARRS-Q, as part of United Nations Global Road Safety Week and Australia’s Yellow Ribbon National Road Safety Week, is launching a Queensland-wide initiative titled Watch your Pace when Sharing Space in Samford Village on Friday 12 May 2017.

Event details
What: Free community road safety event—Watch your Pace when Sharing Space
When: Friday 12 May 2017, 2-5pm
Where: John Scott Park, Station Rd, Samford Village

The Samford event will provide the opportunity to remind the community about sharing the road. There will also be face painting, a sausage sizzle, and cupcakes, together with interactive displays by RACQ, Kidsafe, Queensland Ambulance Service, and Queensland Police.

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