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.
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:
- Autonomous Bicycle Robot blog.
- Video of a self-steering bike carrying a passenger.
- 2008 Bicycle Robot press release from Asia Institute of Technology.
- AIT press release: AIT Team wins BicyRobo Thailand Championship includes links out to other news resources.
Update: Thailand isn’t the only place people are working on autonomous bicycles.
- Indian students design an autonomous bicycle for disabled use: Forget Google, India Delivers Prototype Model of an Autonomous Vehicle
- UK startup creates riderless bicycle prototype (for delivery).
- Last year, Domino’s Pizza joked about autonomous pizza delivery bikes, but they’re apparently trialing something similar in New Zealand using 4 wheeled electric buggies Real Soon Now.