BARCELONA -- Looking to make bicyclists' commutes safer and more efficient, American car company Ford introduced two concept electric bicycles today during a press event at. Known as the MoDe:Pro and the MoDe:Me, the e-bikes are equipped with a number of smart features that connect to the Apple iPhone 6.
According to Erica Klampfl, Ford's head of mobility, the bikes were part of a company-wide challenge that asked employees and designers to come up with a smart e-bike. The two winning designs were showcased at the conference and were created by Ford designers Paul Wraith and Bruce Southey.
Both e-bikes can fold up for storage and have sensors on the back that let riders know when a car is coming too fast from behind. The bike can then vibrate to warn the rider, and flash lights to warn the approaching driver.
When a navigational route is determined via a Bluetooth-connected iPhone, the handlebars provide haptic feedback to let a rider know when to turn left or right. The bikes also have two different horns: a quieter one for pedestrians and another for drivers.
The MoDe:Pro, which was designed by Wraith, is the more industrial and rugged of the two. Meant for commercial use, such as courier and delivery services, the Pro has an optional rear rack for transporting goods. Companies can also outfit their vehicles to store several Pros for transportation.
The MoDe:Me, on the other hand, was designed for the urban commuter. Lighter and smaller, it can store inside a car trunk or be carried alongside onto a bus, and can only operate electronically when connected to a handset.
For designer Southey, the Me is about reattaining the sense of freedom cars once provided drivers, which has now been lost in congested urban environments.
"It's about keeping your independence," he said. Bicycling is also less restrictive than public transportation since, "You can't go where you want, when you want."
In addition to the e-bikes, Ford also showcased its Info Cycle sensor kit -- an open-source hardware and software sensor kit that can be installed on regular and electronic bikes. The kit gathers user data such as miles ridden, the location of bike lanes and the amount of light or luminosity given off in a particular area.
Though all of these are in its early concept stages, Ford hopes that its smart technology will improve the commute of everyone on the road. Whether or not these e-bikes will take off, however, is still undecided.
"It's really just about experimenting right now," said Klampfl. "[We want] to take risks and come up with new ideas."
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