Smart bike paves the path for a social cycling network
Born from a Kickstarter project last spring, the Venhawks Valour raised over $800,000, impressing urban cyclists with a high-tech approach to bike safety.
By connecting with your phone, the smart bike provides a score of nifty features: it will point out your blind spots with ultrasonic sensors, give you integrated turn-by-turn GPS directions via flashing LED lights on the handlebars, and it will track your riding progress on an integrated app.
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But the Valour’s most unique ability is communication: Each Valour is a member of a bike-to-bike mesh network, meaning that every bike in a city is connected.
“The community element has always been important to city bikers,” Ali Zahid, Ali Zahid, co-founder and COO of Vanhawks told Mashable. “They shake hands when they see each other, they stop and chat together at the red light.”
The mesh network brings that sentiment to life. One advantage of the system is a small but devoted anti-theft community. If one Valour bike is stolen, the owner and other bikers in the proximity will receive a notification of its updated whereabouts.
Each Valour costs up to $1,500, so this added bonus could be important for urban bikers, as bike theft has been on the rise in the last couple of years. According to amNewYork, thefts of bikes priced more than $1,000 rose by 65% from 2013 to 2014 in New York City.
The Valour’s cycling community also creates a detailed network of optimal bike routes for riders, kind of like the social traffic app Waze, but for bikes.
Every Valour bike is built with sensors to pick up detailed bike route information — on all of your rides, it records things like how many left and right turns you make, how many stoplights you stop at, and with an on-board nine-axis accelerometer, even how many potholes you ride over.
Then, Valour crowd-sources all of this physical data to make smart route recommendations for everyone in the Valour community.
“In downtown Toronto, bikers can ride on Adelaide Street or King Street,” Zahid explained. “If you search for biking directions on Google Maps, you’ll be told to go down King Street, which is much bigger.”
Adelaide Street, however, is much quieter, and even has a new bike route. While Google does have support for bikers (like pointing out flatter elevations), the Valour platform has the unique benefit of tracking biking data in real time.
As more and more bikers ride around cities using the app, the database will grow more precise. Zahid mentioned that this information could eventually become very powerful for bike safety legislation. “We could possibly even use that data to show to city officials and say ‘hey, this intersection is really congested. It might be a good place for a bike path.'”
Vanhawks will begin releasing the bike this spring, and plans to fulfill its backorders in the coming summer. Toronto and San Francisco will benefit from the biggest Valour communities, with about 300 Valour bikes in Toronto, and another 100 in San Francisco.