Professor Holger Hermanns and his team of computer scientists at Germany’s Saarland University may have just helped bicycles become significantly safer. They have developed a wireless braking system that is so reliable that it is predicted to fail only three times in a trillion braking attempts.
Now, a trillion braking attempts are perhaps humanly impossible; the point of this data is to demonstrate that this braking system is only a teeny weeny bit away from being 100% safe.
The prototype system has been fitted onto the front wheel of a cruiser type bicycle. Although there is no brake cable in this system, what the rider has to do is similar to what she or he would do in a traditional bicycle, viz. squeeze the handlebar. This squeezing action triggers a radio signal which is picked up by a receiver attached to the end of the fork. The receiver relays the signal to an actuator, which causes the disc brake to be applied.
The greater the squeeze on the handlebar, the stronger the signal sent and quicker the braking action. In trials, the prototype braking system has stopped a bicycle within 250 milliseconds. Thus, a cycle equipped with the new wireless braking system needs a much shorter stopping distance.
The team hopes to make these wireless brakes even safer by adding traction-control and anti-lock capability, similar to what is available in modern cars. It may take many more months for bicycle manufacturers to adopt this technology commercially. Till then, do take care when you ride your bicycle.