Ford Announces New Vibrating Smartbike
While Ford is known for manufacturing four wheeled cars, it has been working on two wheeled ways of getting around too. Ford recently announced its new Peer-2-Peer Car Sharing scheme as well as revealing details of the newest addition to its collection of smartbikes- the MoDe:Flex.
Ford had already designed two previous versions of the smartbike and they have all been fitted with a motor and battery. The previous designs were also small, light and could be folded to fit in the back of a car, thought up for commuters who would drive part of the way to work and then take out their bike for the rest of the journey. The new Flex can still be folded for the boot of a car, but is is bigger than the MoDe:Me and MoDe:Pro bikes as it has been designed for bike enthusiasts rather than commuters. The bike is described as a ‘multi-modal urban mobility solution’ and is equally at home on a city road as it is on a mountain path.
Connecting to a smartphone through the MoDe:Link app, riders can be notified of traffic news as well as real-time weather updates, parking costs and public transport information so they always know what to expect when starting off their journey. But one of the most interesting things about the Ford Flex bike is the way that it interacts with the Apple Watch. The smartbike comes with a ‘no sweat’ mode which helps to calculate how much effort is needed to push the pedals in order to reach a destination without having to put in a large amount of physical exertion. The Apple Watch detects the heart rate of the rider while the app and bike are performing calculations. This is where the motor of the bike comes in, creating a pedal assist function that activates once a particular heart rate level is reached by the rider. Although this bike hasn’t been designed solely with commuters in mind, this will be a feature that they welcome as not every workplace allows workers to shower before hitting their desk.
An extension will also be available for the Apple Watch that allows potholes to be detected in the road. When a pothole is coming up in a riders path, the handlebars will vibrate to warn them of the hazard. The Apple Watch will also beep as the bike approaches the pot hole, so riders have a chance to avoid it.
In addition, an ‘eyes-free navigation’ system has been devised by Ford to make getting around areas easier. The built in vibration system connects with a smartphone and allows for integration of the route with the handlebars. For example, if the directions say to turn right then the right side of the handlebars will vibrate when the rider approaches the turning. The handlebars can also sense when cars are approaching the bike from behind and they will vibrate to warn riders of this too. Ford has said this is the first time a smartbike has interacted with smartphones and smartwatches in such a way.
Ford has said that the popularity of health and fitness applications means that these features were obvious benefits that the company would integrate into its newest bicycle design. The technical details of the MoDe:Flex haven’t yet been released by Ford, but it is expected to have the same hardware as the two previous e-bikes. The MoDe:Pro has a 200W motor that can reach up to 15mph along with a 9Ah battery which allows for around 90 minutes of continual use.
Ford announced the previous two models three months ago but is said to be still refining the designs of the smartbikes and so hasn’t released details of when they may arrive in stored yet. Ford president and CEO Mark Field has said that the company has learned lots during the past six months and will put the insights into action, pushing two wheeled transport as well as the four wheeled cars that Ford is known for. Field went on to say “We’re looking at everything. This is an open experiment and we’re looking at all different options”.