Electric bikes are about to become smarter, harnessing AI to offer gearless operation, and eventually car-like features such as cruise control and lane assist.
One company is even offering a generative AI-powered chatbot on an e-bike that, among other things, will give you instructions on changing a tyre.
These ideas are already flowing through to the market with Taiwanese electronics firm Acer demoing its AI-driven ebii e-bike at the IFA 2023 global trade show, which is about to get underway in Berlin.
Different companies are utilizing AI in different ways. The Acer ebii e-bike features a striking intelligence vehicle control box that houses all the electronics, along with the battery box.
Acer says you don’t need to change gears on your ebii – AI senses the riding conditions and adjusts them for you. “No gears, no problem. ebii sensors your riding conditions and pedalling power to deliver the power you need intuitively, giving you the smoothest riding experience you’ll ever have.”
You eventually also won’t need to adjust the degree of electric motor assistance. Acer says the ebiiAssist function adapts to a rider’s pedalling power and preferred level of assistance, by learning your riding habits over time. Bike functions are accessed through an app.
“Connect to the mobile app, ebiiGo, for all the information you need during your urban exploration, including recommended routes, battery life, riding speed, and auto-lock settings.”
Acer says it has addressed the problem of weight; electric bikes are usually heavy. Acer says the ebii e-bike weighs 16kg, has an aluminium alloy frame and runs on a single-side hub motor for high efficiency.
Acer is not the only kid on the block with this technology.
In June, European e-bike retailer Urtopia unveiled an e-bike with ChatGPT that will answer questions such as how to change a flat tyre or give you road directions in response to queries using the natural language capabilities of generative AI. The e-bike also offers GPS navigation, anti-theft measures and data recording.
There is more to come. Co-founder of Weel, David Hansen, says e-bikes will soon offer cruise control to keep the e-bike at a predetermined speed as it travels. Electric bikes will keep within a bicycle lane thanks to a lane assist feature, and compensate for inexperienced riders who don’t understand how to apply back and front brakes simultaneously.
Last year, Weel unveiled an e-bike whose operation is defined mostly by software. Motors in the front and rear do the braking and a separate steering motor keeps the rider balanced. The bike has 360-degree awareness and knows when it is in a bike or car lane.
“When you are riding, the bike will assist you in a way we’re familiar with from cars. Features like ADAS (advanced driver-assistance system), lane assist, auto-braking, cruise control … they’re in software,” he said. “We’ve stripped away the mechanical complexity, and replaced it with software complexity, with what we think of as a mind for the bicycle.”
A Tesla-like assistive system will help you hear and see cars coming up from behind you, he said.
The bike even knows if you taking it up stairs. A Weel video shows a child having no trouble ascending stairs with the Weel e-bike.