Written by Thembani Magazi – June 15, 2021
Reviewed by Asaf Kedem
Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei have ventured into the rapidly advancing field that is autonomous driving systems. They have developed a self-driving bicycle that can operate while unmanned. The new bike can stand on its own in complete balance and has been tested even on the slimmest of surfaces. While there is little information available on the project, it doesn't seem like the firm has any plans for the bike to be manned just yet, removing the need for a human cyclist altogether. As part of the bike’s in-built technology, it incorporates a series of advanced features such as high precision sensors, image recognition cameras and AI technology to make its autonomous driving possible.
Zhihui Jun, one of the Huawei engineers, was inspired to begin the project after being injured in a bicycle accident himself. To realise this project, the team equipped the bicycle with an automatic control system employing a perception sensor network and a computing chip. Additionally, the engineers had to implement a set of perception and control algorithms based on previously existing hardware. As the first step, the developers started modelling a virtual bike using CAD before adding a series of details that would make it a fully actualised driverless vehicle. They installed two brushless motors and a steering gear to control the faucet and then added a sensor equipped with an RGBD depth camera, accelerometer, gyroscope and lidar. The vehicle uses a 6S model airplane power lithium battery, lasting 2-3 hours and the main control computing module is housed right below the seat, above the rear wheel.
Jun seems to be taking a very hands-on approach to this project as he apparently took it upon himself to develop the bike’s computing unit, using Huawei’s ascend 310 as the AI processor as well as the company’s application orchestration service. The bike’s “mind” is capable of perceptive thinking and decision making. The engineers made sure to test the vehicle in a virtual physical environment before performing the final assessment in real life. Thanks to its good algorithms and design, the bike passed the autopilot driving test, proving to be independent, stable and in complete balance.
Auto Trendy’s take
The most immediate application that comes to mind with this is in the transport of small parcels in and around the city. The stated range of these electric batteries is rather good which makes the vehicle ideal for those troublesome urban shuttles of small yet essential items. Huawei have announced plans to develop driverless passenger car technology by 2025 as the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker diversifies its business in the face of US sanctions. This self-driving bicycle is already a promising start to the initiative. Good job, Zhihui Jun!