Every day, about two people in the U.S. suc­cumb to fatal cycling acci­dents while more than 130 suffer harmful injuries. But in an era of increasing con­cern for the envi­ron­ment, cycling is an impor­tant mode of trans­porta­tion, one that could begin to replace gas-​​guzzling cars, trains, and buses. Indeed, Amer­i­cans could save the nation an esti­mated $7 bil­lion in com­muting costs if they biked instead of drove to neigh­bor­hood des­ti­na­tions such as the bank, post office, or gro­cery store.

In an effort to make cycling safer—and thus a more desir­able mode of transportation—students in Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor Mechan­ical and Indus­trial Engi­neering Con­stan­tinos Mavroidis’ Bio­med­ical Mecha­tronics Lab­o­ra­tory have cre­ated a “Smart Bike,” which they call the Inter­ac­tive Bicy­clist Acci­dent Pre­ven­tion System, or iBAPS.

The project was part of the under­grad­uate stu­dent Cap­stone Design course, in which five senior mechan­ical engi­neering stu­dents worked with two of Mavroidis’ doc­toral can­di­dates to create the prototype.

The system is com­prised of two 3-​​D printed con­soles affixed to the front and back of the bicycle. Each con­sole con­tains two prox­imity sen­sors that detect a cyclist’s dis­tance from nearby objects. Laser lights project a vir­tual bicycle lane on either side of the bicycle to stress the cyclist’s safe zone on the street. If other vehi­cles intrude on this zone, the lasers will blink.

If an intruding vehicle gets close enough and the bike is trav­eling fast enough, the sen­sors will then trigger a built-​​in speaker to alert both cyclist and driver to a poten­tial collision.

The system is also equipped with two vibra­tors, built-​​in to the front con­sole and in con­tact with the han­dle­bars. If cyclists speed up as they approach an intersection—one of the most dan­gerous areas for biking—the han­dle­bars will vibrate.

The housing and mount for the smart bike system were 3D printed in Mavroidis’ lab. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

The front and back con­soles are Blue­tooth enabled to com­mu­ni­cate with each other and with a smart­phone appli­ca­tion, which tells the system where it is on the map and also records the cyclist’s inter­ac­tions with other objects. Upon fur­ther devel­op­ment, the team hopes the app will pro­vide lon­gi­tu­dinal data to show cyclists how their behavior changes over time and indi­cate their level of safe biking habits. The system also includes a visual turn signal. While the system incor­po­rates a variety of existing tech­nolo­gies, “the key is it’s inter­ac­tive, which makes it a novel idea,” said stu­dent Philip Lena.

For example, stu­dent Mari­etta Alcover explained that “the smart­phone app will work with the phone’s GPS to send a signal to the front con­sole every time the bicycle is approaching an inter­sec­tion and not slowing down.”

The project earned the iBAPS team the MIE Cap­stone Award for biggest impact, as well as a $5,000 Provost Under­grad­uate Research Award. Next semester, four of the students—doctoral can­di­dates Amir B. Far­ja­dian and Qingchao Andy Kong and under­grad­u­ates Alexander Pepjonovich and Carlo Sartori—will join forces with an entering grad­uate stu­dent, Mahsa Hayeri, to carry on the work. They plan to fur­ther develop the smart­phone appli­ca­tion, test the pro­to­type, col­lect field data, and improve the design.

The student-​​researchers have patented sev­eral parts of the system with the help of the Center for Research Inno­va­tion and are looking into com­mer­cial­izing their product. “I truly believe this has huge com­mer­cial poten­tial,” Mavroidis said. “It is an inno­v­a­tive and useful tool that is needed by the market.”