Hey Google: Robot bicycles are already a thing

By now you’ve seen the Google self driving bicycle video.

I began planning for today about six months ago when I talked with a film studies student at UC Santa Cruz about creating a video for the same concept of an autonomous bicycle. We began the process of storyboarding and conceptualizing the look of the bike when I Googled “autonomous bicycle” and learned that not only is it already a thing, but it’s been a thing for nearly a decade now.

Asian Institute of Technology Autonomous Bicycle 2008

Seagate and the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand have been running a robo-bicycle student competition since at least 2008. Students use their skills in robotics to design a self-driving, self-balancing bicycle. Earlier entries, like the one show in this 2010 video, require remote control and can travel only in straight lines, but newer entries are capable of route finding, obstacle avoidance, and carrying a rider. I think they haven’t received the recognition they deserve

After I watched about a dozen of these videos of real life robotic bicycles, I gave up on the idea of a mock autonomous bicycle April Fool story. These industrious students have done wonderful work with their real-life robotic bikes. In spite of their impressive work, these students haven’t received the recognition they deserve because their cell phone videos lack polish. I think the most popular Thai videos have in the neighborhood of 15,000 views over the span of five to eight years, while Google’s professional production complete with creative special effects has racked up nearly 100,000 views in just a few hours as of this writing.

Online resources are difficult to find, but here’s more:

Update: Thailand isn’t the only place people are working on autonomous bicycles.

4 Comments

  • April 1, 2016 - 10:52 am | Permalink

    Very neat. Thanks for doing the minimal bit of Googling which Google themselves couldn’t do. As penance for their sins, they are required to hire all these students!

  • April 5, 2016 - 9:00 am | Permalink

    Absolute horrible idea. It takes the “feeling” away from riding your bike. Does Google think a bike is just a sum of moving parts? No, it’s not. Why don’t they focus on keeping their self driving vehicles from crashing into buses?

  • April 5, 2016 - 11:06 am | Permalink

    Speaking of crashing into buses, we had a guy driving an $80,000 Audi S7 make an illegal left turn across the front of a VTA light rail train this morning in San Jose. That kind of stuff happens with alarming frequency when humans are at the controls.

  • April 6, 2016 - 7:03 am | Permalink

    The video turned out to be an April fools joke! ****** Google!

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