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Are autonomous tricycles the answer to urban congestion?

Perhaps not yet...

A team of researchers is looking to give our cities a cheaper, smaller, smarter alternative to cars and busses by introducing fleets of autonomous tricycles to our streets.

Using computer systems "less powerful than a smartphone," the group of students at the University of Washington Bothell (UWB) have created a tricycle that, they hope, will be able to travel autonomously through city streets and have a "big impact" on global warming.

The project started with a remote-controlled tricycle, but just last week the university research team upgraded the bike by introducing a fully autonomous driving system to it.

While the dream of a city filled with these little contraptions may sound fantastic, the reality is still some way off. The tricycle can only drive in circles at the moment.

>Read more: Uber set to deploy self-driving fleet to US streets

Traveling in circles isn't much use to those of us looking to get around in cities - though some may argue that the UK's cycling infrastructure leaves us feeling like we're cycling in circles already. The team, however, is confident that the tricycle will be able to reach miles of autonomous travel in the future, and that this 'circle test' is the first step towards them achieving that.

The team says that the circle test is proof that the tricycle can self-execute a 'method'. The team says that "the circle test is a demonstration of more elaborate control. The reason why this is a really good step towards pure autonomy is because it shows that the vehicle can take in variables and respond to feedback."

The team doesn't have access to the huge funding budgets that companies like Google and Uber have, but they're not looking to implement their tricycle to the roads just yet.

Head of the team at UWB, Tyler Folsom, told said that "part of the concept is that you don’t have to spend as much money as the big car companies are spending. My contention is you don’t need all that much processing power to make autonomy happen.”

>Read more: Mercedes-Benz chooses drivers over cyclists in autonomous car ethical problem

The goal is to help the world battle climate change, and they hope to do that by offering a lighter, greener alternative mode of transport to the world.

Folsom went on to say: “The big thing for me is the effect this could have on global warming,” said Folsom. “If we can push transportation in this direction—very light vehicles—it’s a major win for the environment. I want to have the technology that lets people make that choice if we decide, yes, by the way, survival would be a nice thing.”


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jollygoodvelo | 7 years ago
1 like

Betteridge's Law; tick.

DaveE128 | 7 years ago

So they're aiming for a recumbent tricycle to transport people who don't know where they're going and can't or won't pedal? Not sure I really get how this will persuade people to get out of their cars. At least they can see that cars arent the future for urban transport I suppose!

hawkinspeter | 7 years ago

Nice idea, but it's not going to be so popular in bad weather.

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