Ford is launching a new experiment involving prototype electric bicycles. It’s called the “Handle on Mobility” experiment and the automaker unveiled it Monday the Mobile World Congress in Spain. Basically, it’s built two prototype e-bicycles with a bunch of tech features, including a journey planning app.
The whole idea is to use data gathered throughout the experiment to study how to better integrate e-bikes in the transportation chain. The end game is, of course, seeing how seamlessly e-bikes can interact with cars and public transit to deliver faster, safer commutes and make everyone’s lives better.
“Changing the way we think, collaborate and behave is essential to ensuring freedom of movement of both people and economies,” said Barb Samardzich, chief operating officer, Ford of Europe. “The Ford Smart Mobility plan supports our commitment to innovation and is aimed specifically at developing smarter transportation systems that take the worry and anxiety out of journey planning and improve the quality of life in busy cities.”
The design process for the prototype is pretty cool. Ford challenged employees around the world to submit their designs for the e-bikes. It picked two of them, the MoDe:Me and MoDe:Pro e-bikes, from more than 100 submitted ideas.
The may look different, but here is what both bikes offer that’s the same. Both are equipped with a 200-watt motor with 9-amp-hour battery that provides electric pedal assist for speeds of up to 25 km/h. The prototype e-bikes offer technology inspired by the automotive industry including, for example, a rear-facing ultrasonic sensor. This enables a rider alert system that both warns the cyclist when a vehicle is overtaking, by vibrating both handlebars, and alerts motorists of the presence of the e-bike by illuminating handlebar lights.
The easily folding bikes meet the needs of different types of users:
- The MoDe:Me e-bike – built with the help of bicycle manufacturer Dahon – is aimed at urban commuters to keep moving in congested city traffic. It folds and stows easily, so commuters can park on the city outskirts, take it with them onto public transport.
- The MoDe:Pro e-bike – built by a Ford team – is intended for urban commercial use such as by couriers, electricians, and goods and delivery services. It is designed to stow safely into commercial vehicles such as Transit Connect, which can act as carrier and support vehicle.
The technology on these bikes can do some pretty cool things, too. They’re equipped with a prototype app called MoDe:Link, which is compatible with the iPhone 6. It’s handle bars vibrate and tell drivers when to turn. Turn signals are triggered automatically for safety. It can also identify bike-friendly roads and alert drivers to hazards. The app can even measure a person’s heart rate to adjust an electric pedal assist. A “No Sweat” mode reduces the requirement to pedal, allowing riders to arrive fresh at their destination.
“At Ford, we’re innovating in every part of our business and we’re open to smarter ways of keeping the world moving freely,” Samardzich said. “Our commitment to mobility extends far beyond vehicles and includes investing in a range of mobility projects and experiments. Such ongoing research projects help us to find out what works and to develop smarter, more connected mobility solutions.”