Gold 2017 / Design For Society / Design for Sustainability / Professional

The Copenhagen Wheel

  • Company
  • Director
    Assaf Biderman
  • Design Team
    Rob Roy Sarah Kuehnle Horatio Han Jon Stevens

Over the next three decades, it is projected that the urban population will rise to equal today’s global population. With this growth, demand for urban transportation is expected to rise more than 2.5-fold, meaning we will need 2.5 times capacity on the roads just to keep congestion level. Recently, attention has turned towards autonomous vehicles (AV); while potentially impactful, these cars will not significantly reduce congestion unless we rethink their form factor. With the average US car at an occupancy of only 1.55 people per vehicle, it is unlikely that a five-seater AV will be full 100% of the time. We need smaller-scale vehicles that allow people to move around dense environments in a more efficient and individualized manner. The Copenhagen Wheel does just that. Inspired by robotic exoskeletons, the Wheel is a semi- autonomous vehicle condensed into a single red wheel. It transforms almost any bike into a smart, electric hybrid by replacing the rear wheel with its robotic technology. Beyond utility, the simplistic form and effortless experience of riding the Wheel were at the center of design efforts. In both its physical form and electromechanics, The Wheel was designed to preserve the pure experience of riding a bicycle, including the delicate motions of balancing and steering. Special sensors and computers learn how a rider pedals and integrate organically with his or her motion, amplifying power up to ten times. Personal data and ride modes are accessed through a mobile app that communicates with the Wheel in real time. This app provides a wealth of data to enhance cycling, from physical wellness, to monitoring the quality of the road network, to safety application. While it’s a complex robot with hundreds of parts, all complexity was abstracted into a single continuous shape painted with a single color.

Photo Credit: Superpedestiran
Credits: Original academic project: Carlo Ratti Assaf Biderman Christine Outram