Smartphones. Smart homes. Smart cars. As the world gets smarter with new innovations and technologies, life becomes easier for humans. For those who are old enough to remember the hit 1980s TV show "Knight Rider," KITT, the car that talks back to its driver and smart enough to drive on its own, was the coolest. On Tuesday, a startup company in Cambridge, Massachusetts launched the Copenhagen Wheel. The product may not be as high-tech as the talking car but it turns an ordinary bike into a smart bike and is amazing enough to have the tech world buzzing.
Superpedestrian, the company behind the $700-wheel, collaborated with the SENSEable City Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop the product. The company also received funding of $2.1 million from Tumblr founder David Karp and Spark Capital in October. Superpedestrian is helmed by Assaf Biderman who first worked with the city of Copenhagen that gave birth to the idea of the intuitive wheel.
The 12-pound Copenhagen Wheel is basically a rear wheel that can be installed on any ordinary bicycle. The smart wheel turns the bike into a hybrid vehicle as it relies on batteries to help riders go as fast as 30 miles an hour or assist when the biker is negotiating an uphill. It can detect if the rider is exerting more effort to the pedals so it will give the bike an extra push.
The Copenhagen Wheel is pretty much like a Toyota Prius, only better. It easily snaps to replace the rear wheel of a bike and seamlessly help in operating the two-wheel ride with its 250W electric motor. On a single charge, the battery can help run the bike to as far as 30 miles. The slick contraption can lock the bike when the rider unmounts and unlocks the ride when the biker returns. It also makes use of regenerative braking, which captures energy to store in its battery pack while pressing on the brakes or when going downhill.
When connected to a smartphone, a rider can customize the settings of the Copenhagen Wheel. Using a mobile app, it can help an individual monitor vital numbers when biking such as distance travelled, elevation gain, and calories burned.
"Can we make bikes a competitive alternative to cars, buses and subways for people who live in or commute to work in cities? That is our mission. For the millions of city residents who are tired of sitting in traffic jams or long waits for the bus or train, the Copenhagen Wheel provides an easier, more environmentally friendly way to get around using the bike that's already sitting in their garage or front hall," said Superpedestrian founder and associate director of the MIT SENSEable City Laboratory Assaf Biderman in a press statement.
Biderman sees a lot of potential in Copenhagen Wheel. "The market for electronic bikes is $2.5 billion to $3.5 billion and it has been growing for the last seven years. While the market is established in northern Europe, it is untapped in the U.S. and southern Europe," Biderman told Forbes in an interview.
Shipment of the Copenhagen Wheel starts early 2014.