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Scientists Build Wireless Bicycle Brakes

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the oh-the-possibilities dept.

Transportation 213

itwbennett writes "Computer scientists at a German university have built a set of brakes controlled using a small motor for a braking mechanism and a wireless signaling device to tell it when to brake and how hard. 'Making a popular set of bike brakes wasn't really the point of the project,' says blogger Kevin Fogarty. 'The project was to find out how to make the wireless connections between two components of a system that has to operate in real time – with milliseconds of difference between success and failure (PDF) – more reliable than systems that are normally connected by a wire.'"

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213 comments

Awesome... (5, Funny)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713130)

I haven't had a head injury in a while, where do I sign up to try them out?

Re:Awesome... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713152)

I haven't had a head injury in a while, where do I sign up to try them out?

On a slightly more serious note, where can I buy some? I'll need about 3 dozen before the next local marathon bike race.

Re:Awesome... (3, Funny)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713386)

And where do I buy the signalling device ? I would love to mount this on the side of my car, having all bikes around me lock up entirely, with hilarious results.

Joking aside, I do hope this guy thought about security.

Re:Awesome... (3, Insightful)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713460)

I hope there is some sort of Make sure you mix up the levers and calipers so the radio pairs aren't installed together on the same bike.

Yeah, no thanks. This sort of technology adds multiple potential points of failure to a system that is currently reliable and simple.

Whereas a bicycle brake system can experience a cable failure (among others which are shared with a wireless system, such as pads) a wireless system can experience transmitter failure, receiver failure, radio interference, battery failure (transmitter or receiver). This team tries to mitigate that potential failure by adding more transmitters. That reminds me of a SNL skit - Christopher Walken "More Cow Bell"

In my time as a cyclist (3 decades), I've only experienced brake communication failure (broken cable) a couple of times - after which I learned to stop buying cheap cables and I've never experienced brake failure again.

I realize this is not a product that will likely see the light of day. It was an exercise in the reliability of critical communication as indicated by a quote early in TFA:

"Wireless brake" and "hit by a truck" sound the same to a cyclist

Re:Awesome... (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713216)

Why not RTFA and notice it's presented as something that not a single cyclist will use.

When you are building things you start with the end object I take it? Rather than picking something that is trivial and cheap to work with?

Re:Awesome... (2, Funny)

grimmjeeper (2301232) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713268)

Cut him a little slack. He may still be suffering from one of the other head injuries he had a while ago...

Re:Awesome... (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713506)

Why RTFA? The summary makes it quite clear. It's actually a very good test application. Bicycle breaks are mechanically simple and cheap to construct, but require the same sort or control latency as a lot of aerospace applications. It's a lot cheaper to stick an experimental control system on a bike than an aircraft, and if it doesn't work it's probably a lot less painful...

Re:Awesome... (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713728)

it's probably a lot less painful...

Says the person not on the bike.

-

I doubt they even used a full bike. They probably just set up a bench of a tire and mechanical brakes and connected it to normal brake handles that were actuated by some sort of servo. Then right next to it the 'wireless' version. The tires were probably driven by a motor so that they could setup and run hundreds of hours of back to back automated tests.

It's not like they just threw a bunch of guys on bikes and said "So, how does this feel, lets tweak that carrier frequency..."

Re:Awesome... (5, Insightful)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713796)

Most of the responses so far are people getting hung-up on the example and responding "wireless brakes on a bike are teh shitz." If you read the PDF, they're pretty clear that the experiment is about real-time control systems using wireless communications links. The wireless bike brake is a convenient structure to do some real-world prototyping, and provides some environmental bounds (response time, lag, bandwidth, etc.) that ratchet this up one level above being a purely academic exercise.

That said, the authors are faced with the horrible reality of wireless links - they are completely unreliable. Fundamentally. Period. The aether is a shared medium, and as such, you have to deal with collisions from other transmitters and interference from unintentional radiators (microwave oven, I'm looking at you.) The objective response time in this experiment is 150mS in the wireless link, and 100mS in the physical actuator. Ignoring the actuator time, 150mS is an abstract number without context. If you're brewing coffee wirelessly, 150mS to close the loop on the temperature control is effectively "instant." [no pun intended] However, if you're measuring RPM feedback on a turbine shaft, 150mS may be an eternity.

If you're placing the wireless link in the feedback path of a control loop, which these guys are doing, you have to account for the characteristics of the wireless link as part of the control loop stability analysis. Modeling packet loss and transmission delay as the equivalent phase shift and frequency characteristic of a classical analog component can be quite challenging. Further, the characteristics of interference sources may place you squarely in the "doomed from the start" category. If the above mentioned microwave oven can impair your wireless link for the duration of a bag of popcorn, your 150mS response time is irrelevant.

Wireless links and hard real-time control systems go together like fish and bicycles do.

Re:Awesome... (1)

mvar (1386987) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713218)

What could possibly go wrong

Works GREAT! (2)

aardwolf64 (160070) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713154)

Works GREAT... until the battery dies and you hit a car.

Re:Works GREAT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713176)

I would hope being on a bike they can run off a dynamo.

Re:Works GREAT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713286)

I would hope being on a bike they can run off a dynamo.

So they've got the wireless power thing sorted out now, too? Cool!

Re:Works GREAT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713308)

Well that would invalidate the design for any competitive cyclists. Who (from that class of folks) would want any of their work output going into charging something and not into moving them forward?

Re:Works GREAT! (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713646)

Would a regenerative braking system be too heavy to be worth it?

Re:Works GREAT! (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713716)

Would a regenerative braking system be too heavy to be worth it?

From the bike's manual: "If you don't have enough energy to trigger the break, trigger the break in order to gain energy from regenerative breaking. That energy can then be used to trigger the break." :-)

Re:Works GREAT! (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713790)

s/break/brake/ in my entire post!
But then, it's a manual ... so maybe it's just more realistic that way. :-)

Re:Works GREAT! (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713734)

When your desire is to break, you definitely do want energy to go out of moving forward. So activating the dynamo to take some of the energy out would actually have the desired effect in that case.

Re:Works GREAT! (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713780)

Errr ... of course I meant desire to brake. :-)

Re:Works GREAT! (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713792)

I would hope being on a bike they can run off a dynamo.

So the brakes go off if the bike slows down? Or maybe they fail on (no, I've not read the article) -- in which case you can't release the brakes unless the dynamo is running, and the dynamo won't be running unless you release the brakes.

Re:Works GREAT! (1)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713194)

Or when you are trying to overtake someone with your bike, and the other one brakes to let you pass...

Re:Works GREAT! (2)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713238)

And think of all the fun when someone figures out a way to mimic the signal with another device! We'll know the future has finally arrived when a bully can fling a kid off his bike from across the street...

Re:Works GREAT! (2)

Jaqenn (996058) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713880)

No, you know the future has finally arrived when the most successful bullies torment their victims with intelligence and technology instead of burly muscles and indian-burns.

Re:Works GREAT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713918)

Given the skills needed, more like a nerd getting back at the bully from a safe distance :)

Re:Works GREAT! (1)

roalt (534265) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713354)

When the breaks gradually go into breaking mode when the battery dies, I see no problem (sorry for spoiling the fun).

Re:Works GREAT! (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713818)

When the breaks gradually go into breaking mode when the battery dies, I see no problem (sorry for spoiling the fun).

Ah, I see I'm not the only one who breaks his brakes. :-)

Re:Works GREAT! (1)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713446)

If they were smart, they would design them like the air brakes on trucks - they default to on, the air pressure is required constantly to be able to move the vehicle. That way if an air line leaks, the truck will come to a stop.

The project is pretty ambitious as it is - they are designing *two* things that are not normally done on a bike: electrically activated brakes, and wireless brakes. A totally silly idea for a bicycle, but potentially useful for trailers.

Re:Works GREAT! (1)

OutputLogic (1566511) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713606)

Works great until somebody else hacks and starts messing around with the breaks.

Hmmmmm... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713190)

Neighborhood full of non-road-sharing Lance Armstrong wannabe pissfucks in spandex riding 3 abreast and 4 deep, refusing to collapse to single file for faster traffic? Check.

Plenty of imaginary road-crossing squirrels around for which to slam on brakes after finally passing aforementioned group of worthless cancerdicks? Check.

Wireless jamming device onhand? Check.

Fun times ahead, folks. Fun times.

Re:Hmmmmm... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713296)

Awww, did a cyclist steal your boyfriend mid-fuck?

Re:Hmmmmm... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713426)

Enjoy your ball cancer or bumper sandwich - whichever you get first - you tampon-sucking, hotpants-wearing, non-road-sharing piece of nothing.

Re:Hmmmmm... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713500)

Enjoy your ball cancer or bumper sandwich - whichever you get first - you tampon-sucking, hotpants-wearing, non-road-sharing piece of nothing.

Says the guy who doesn't want to share the road...

Re:Hmmmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713798)

It's not a question of not wanting to share the road, it's a matter of being pissed off at idiots who constantly ignore red lights and stop signs, swerve back and forth between lanes (including the oncoming ones), don't signal or even look before turning across in front of traffic, and aren't physically capable of reaching anything approaching the speed limit, despite blocking off the entire road during mid-day traffic. The majority of cyclists should have their bikes taken away from them permanently, for public safety.

Re:Hmmmmm... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713400)

Ah, another twunt who thinks they own the road just because they pay road tax...

Re:Hmmmmm... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713564)

Great - another road chode who thinks his spandex half-leotard makes him king of all traffic; laws and courtesy be damned. How about you just go eat a dick and STFU before the inevitable day you end up picking your teeth out of one of my bumper stickers, you fetid jizzwad?

Re:Hmmmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713634)

Hey enjoy your ever increasing gas prices, fucktard!

All your brakes belong to us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713202)

In a police state the cops will be asking for remote overrides of these wireless brakes. Police cars driving past and asking to pull over will be a thing of past. Now they just have to override your wireless brake.

Re:All your brakes belong to us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713280)

I know you're trying to be funny, but onstar already has a feature to cut the engine power to idle and with features like panic break assist and other assorted features, it won't be hard to add it in.

Re:All your brakes belong to us (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713492)

OnStar has to be the scariest add-on for a car I can think of. There's no fucking way I'd let some device controlled by a remote person control the engine/braking of my car.

The day brain implants that can override your own muscle controls, designed for paraplegics etc., becomes a standard offering from hospitals will be the day someone in government has the thought "can we install these in ciminals?"

Slippery slope...

Already here for cars (2)

Quila (201335) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713288)

Welcome to OnStar, can I help the police violate your rights today?

Reliability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713222)

Smart, because wireless is always more reliable than wired. Oh wait, it isn't.

Over-complicated given the goal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713228)

'The project was to find out how to make the wireless connections between two components of a system that has to operate in real time – with milliseconds of difference between success and failure – more reliable than systems that are normally connected by a wire.'

My solution would have been to fill the cable sheath with silicone grease. Lock out moisture and air; prevent corrosion.

Re:Over-complicated given the goal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713290)

Granted I'm still pro wire vs wireless, that could have multiple variables make it go wrong, like a microwave or something. The only downside to a physical cable is that after prolonged use, eventually the cable will stretch. By this time, an aware rider would notice and either replace the cable or have it replaced. If it's not terribly broke, don't fix it.

Re:Over-complicated given the goal. (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713548)

Granted I'm still pro wire vs wireless, that could have multiple variables make it go wrong, like a microwave or something. The only downside to a physical cable is that after prolonged use, eventually the cable will stretch. By this time, an aware rider would notice and either replace the cable or have it replaced. If it's not terribly broke, don't fix it.

I don't think the cables stretch so much as the housing compresses. But in any case, it's a gradual process, and the rider only needs to twist the cable adjusting barrel that most bikes have a few turns to make up for it.

Awesome, what could possibly go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713242)

*fiddles with directional antenna on a dumb white-noise transmitter, readies camera*

Wireless is Foolproof (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713248)

How many times has my wireless bike speedometer failed? This could add a whole new dimension to bike riding!

fly-by-wireless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713258)

It must be great to rely on wireless breaks. This is even better than fly-by-wire. Can't wait for fire-by-wireless.
Check, check can't connect to breaks.

Re:fly-by-wireless (2)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713316)

"Brakes". The word you're trying to write is "brakes".

Re:fly-by-wireless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713528)

when the mechanism slows/stops your forward progress, they're known as brakes.

when they allow you to plunge full speed through a crash barrier, then over a cliff, they're known as breaks.

Re:fly-by-wireless (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713830)

Actually, in this context, "breaks" might be right.

Re:fly-by-wireless (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713450)

Check, check, can't spell "brakes" even though IT'S IN THE FUCKING TITLE.

Check, check, you're a fucking moron.

Re:fly-by-wireless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713584)

sorry for that, do you consider all people who do not speak/spell english morons ?

Increasing complexity to reduce failure rates? (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713304)

I guess I am not understanding the issue here but how is adding touch points reducing the failure rate? Regardless that is fixing a problem that does not really exist.

I know people who ride competitively, reliability is key and introducing more components that can break or add weight is not going to get acceptance. Modulation is key and I really doubt you can simulate that with any wireless system.

Re:Increasing complexity to reduce failure rates? (1)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713352)

I know people who ride competitively, reliability is key and introducing more components that can break or add weight is not going to get acceptance. Modulation is key and I really doubt you can simulate that with any wireless system.

That's what makes it an interesting exercise. It would be trivial - and non-newsworthy - to try to build a crappy on/of system that didn't work very well. It's far more interesting to try to figure out how to solve the problem and meet your criteria.

Re:Increasing complexity to reduce failure rates? (1)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713382)

FTFS:

'Making a popular set of bike brakes wasn't really the point of the project,' says blogger Kevin Fogarty. 'The project was to find out how to make the wireless connections between two components of a system that has to operate in real time...'

It was an academic exercise to test some theories on how to build high-speed, reliable wireless systems.

Re:Increasing complexity to reduce failure rates? (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713652)

And they have essentially added nothing new to what has been already out there for ages. Their only contribution is a tutorial in applying a stochastic modeling package to a not-very-interesting problem. They have limited themselves to on-the-air aspect of the system only, and on top of that all they show is that in TDMA fixed time slot assignment results in better reliability than random slot assignment. In the latter you get collisions and packet loss rate that's 5 orders of magnitude higher.

All this is done in total isolation from real life. They do not even pretend to take into account various forms of interference, reliability of individual components, etc. I'd never let them publish this paper -- it's just regurgitation of well known stuff under pretense of some "fancy" application. It's pathetic, really. Sorry, but I have nothing better to say about it. It's not a useless paper -- I enjoyed reading it, it's a nice if pretentious introduction to stochastic modelling using Prism, but it belongs on their departmental website as a tutorial, and that's about it. Even if they did it using bidirectional communications and force feedback, it'd still be way too far from being a sensible contribution to the field.

Re:Increasing complexity to reduce failure rates? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713608)

I guess I am not understanding the issue here but how is adding touch points reducing the failure rate? Regardless that is fixing a problem that does not really exist.

I know people who ride competitively, reliability is key and introducing more components that can break or add weight is not going to get acceptance. Modulation is key and I really doubt you can simulate that with any wireless system.

The reason for this is not that bike brakes don't work (hydraulic disc brakes work fabulously) but that cables and housing are a pain in the ass (they require maintenance, they rub the paint off of your nice $2000 frame, etc). With traditional cables, you already lose modulation and power through the elasticity of the cable. That's why hydraulic brakes are so popular, but maintenance on those is complex, and if they break on the trail you're walking. In short, because cables suck.

Adding weight is perfectly acceptable so long as the payoff is worth it. See disc brakes, suspension forks, full suspension, through-axles, overbuilt frames, 2.5 inch tires, remote seatposts, etc, etc, etc. Most riders will add all kinds of cool toys to their bike even if it weighs it down, and even XC racers were on full-suspension bikes well before they got them back down to 25 lbs. XC racers also use heavier disc brakes because they are soooo much nicer than V-brakes.

With that said, I agree that reliability is critical and breakage is not acceptable in a critical component. However a lot of technology on bikes was seen as ridiculous at first. The designers of this system have identified a problem (cables suck) and they are trying to solve it. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. But adding a 10 pound fork to a 22 pound bike in order to get 2" of travel was once a widely-mocked idea, and look how that worked out.

Re:Increasing complexity to reduce failure rates? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713894)

They're from the Saarland University, home of "X-Pire [slashdot.org] ", the technology that our Angie thought would lead the world in data privacy... At least their marketing department isn't sleeping.

Force-feedback built in? (1)

Urban Garlic (447282) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713344)

To be useful, this would probably have to include some kind of force-feedback, so you know how hard you're pressing. You can't deduce this from lever position, because the brake pads wear down over their life. So, you'll need a motor in the handle, as well as in the brake itself.

On the up-side, it will mean you can incorporate front brakes on those BMX stunt bikes where some of the tricks involve spinning the handlebars all the way around.

Also also: "brake" == device for slowing something down, or the process or effect of slowing something down; "break" == to damage or destroy something, the act of destroying something, or a gap or discontinuity. FYI.

Re:Force-feedback built in? (1)

dragonsomnolent (978815) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713456)

Actually they've had little gizmos on the front forks of bikes for years to allow brakes on the handlebars of those bmx stunt bikes. The cable connects to an upper ring on the fork and then that connects via bearings to a lower ring. The cable from the handle pulls the upper ring, which then pulls up the lower ring, pulling the cables that run from that to the brakes themselves. I was like 10 when I first saw them, so they've been around for a few decades at least.

Re:Force-feedback built in? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713508)

nicknamed a gyro

Don't you just peddle backwards? (1)

Will Steinhelm (1822174) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713346)

Don't you just peddle backwards?

Re:Don't you just peddle backwards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713550)

Peddle backwards? Is that a euphemism for stealing?

Re:Don't you just peddle backwards? (1)

godrik (1287354) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713632)

There is pretty much only in netherland that I saw bikes that brakes by peddling backwards. Personnaly, I find more convenient to have dedicated brakes since it allows to be ready to accelerate quickly despite I am currently braking.

Re:Don't you just peddle backwards? (1)

hack slash (1064002) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713756)

I was in a bike shop today replacing a front wheel, changing from rim to disc brakes and the discussion led to brakes in general, one guy said he couldn'd help laughing when in the Netherlands on holiday cycling with his wife she went for the brakes on the handlebar only to find they weren't there and subsequently went straight into a lake.

Re:Don't you just peddle backwards? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713770)

Unless you're trying to sell drugs or encyclopedias door-to-door, the word you're looking for is "pedal".

Re:Don't you just peddle backwards? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713778)

What is it with you fuckwits who can't spell grade-school words? It's PEDAL, you numbskull.

Uh huh (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713362)

Wireless systems... needing power and chips and antennas and receivers and complicated communication protocols... more reliable than steel wire... Hmmm... Best of luck with that!

Re:Uh huh (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713936)

Man, I wonder where you could get power from on a moving bicycle that you would like to slow down?

I'd Never Use Them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713370)

As an active cyclist, I would never use such a device that has no merit other than "it can be done." My safety will be entrusted only to the tried-and-true steel wire conection.

Stop whining (4, Insightful)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713388)

This isn't about wireless bike brakes, it's about reliable, real-time wireless connections. Surely that's something nerds can find a use for?

Re:Stop whining (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713906)

Great, now you will have to turn off your cell phones, laptops and mp3 players whenever you start to get too close to a cyclist.

I will wait a few years (1)

rgbe (310525) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713398)

1 in a trillion. Yeah right. What happens when someone signal jams my brakes, or you are driving past an electric fence, near lightning or some other failure. I will let others be the guinea pigs.

need hack/virus please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713416)

im waiting for the headline bicycle hack makes bikes flip end over end

lets make that fun happan ... jam on front brakes for a split second when riding above a certain speed

Bad application (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713490)

So I actually RTFA, and the first half is basically, "If you use a fixed allocation of time slots to each side of a communication channel, you get less packet loss". This is great best practice advice for real time systems where loss is unacceptable and each side has a small amount of predefined data to transmit. The end of the article however applies this to wireless networks in general, saying that network admins should see if their WAPs support this fixed allocation. That application is completely and utterly wrong. The problem with fixed allocation is you need to know up front how much bandwidth to allocate to each sender. Get that allocation wrong and your users will be suffering with horrible lag while most of your bandwidth sits idle. Obviously there is just no way a network admin can know the exact allocations needed. No way at all.

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Over-Engineering - Full Throttle (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713514)

Why don't they go full Java Enterprisey Enterprise Edition Library - Government Edition, and make a hamster-fart-powered brake factory factory-making Rube-Goldberg machine factory production contractor factory... factory?

Then at least it wouldn't be trivial. :P

Jackass (4, Funny)

hack slash (1064002) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713522)

Someone needs to give one of these bikes to the Jackass guys - with a 2nd remote control.

Re:Jackass (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713698)

That's about the only sensible use of their research setup, actually. At least it's not a total waste that way. Because I'm convinced they wasted everyone's time doing that project. Not only there's no new science, but no new engineering either. It's just sad.

Re:Jackass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713762)

but no new engineering either. It's just sad.

WTF are you going on about

"The project was to find out how to make the wireless connections between two components of a system that has to operate in real time – with milliseconds of difference between success and failure"

Not even from TFA, but from the summary.

So does this mean that Belkin... (1)

orphiuchus (1146483) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713570)

...Will make brakes that stop working for like, no reason?

Re:So does this mean that Belkin... (1)

hack slash (1064002) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713664)

Or Apple will bring out some that will require regular software updates, and if you don't click Agree on the T&C's the brakes lock in the off position.

I doubt it. (1)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713578)

Sorry, but TFA is hard pressed to convince me a wireless connection will be more reliable than a wire (even with consideration of the mechanical connections). I'd not want to be in a airplane that used fly-by-wireless instead of fly-by-wire.

fly-by-wireless is a reality already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713582)

For airplanes, helicopters, and spacecraft, a significant fraction of the mass is in the wiring harness. As a result, there's a lot of interest in wireless interconnect technology, to the point where they're actually doing it. In commercial aviation, wireless is used primarily for non-critical functions (entertainment, airconditioning controls, etc.), but there are military helicopters which use fly-by-wireless at a significant mass savings. All that mass that isn't in copper/insulation/supports can go into payload or armor or other "useful" stuff.

The research reported here is interesting, but it's not clear that they had really studied the existing state of the art. Going to fixed slot allocation in a TDMA system is an obvious performance improvement, but oops, it requires a) preplanning and b)enough bandwidth to accommodate worst case demand. And that costs mass/power/money. So what you REALLY need is a robust, reliable demand allocation system so you can deal with reconfiguration (oops, engine control unit 1 just was disabled by shrapnel, switch to engine control unit 2) and load changes (switch to zero visibility landing approach mode), etc. Some form of reliable mesh routing would also be nice, because box A in the nose might not be able to see (in a RF propagation sense) box Z in the tail, so the message needs to be deterministically forwarded through Boxes B, C, D, etc.

And as for all those bogus comments in the thread about interference, and reboots and such.. Doh... do you think the guys and gals designing wireless flight control systems haven't thought about that. Of course they have. Thats the *first* thing that people ask about.

Re:fly-by-wireless is a reality already (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713712)

but there are military helicopters which use fly-by-wireless at a significant mass savings. All that mass that isn't in copper/insulation/supports can go into payload or armor or other "useful" stuff.

Can you provide a reference for this?

With as much RF shielding that military radio/navigation equipment gets for resistance to jamming, I'm really surprised that they'd go fully wireless for control systems.

Scientists built them? (1)

BMOC (2478408) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713596)

No, Engineers built them. Doesn't matter what profession these guys have or what investigations into the universe they do while on the clock. This development is outside the realm of question, therefore it's not science, it's engineering.

Milleseconds? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713612)

The summary says with milliseconds of difference between success and failure, but the article and paper says it has to react within 250 milliseconds - that's 1/4 of a second. My cable brakes react much quicker than that.

Calling that mere "milliseconds of difference" is like saying something that costs $2.50 costs only "pennies".

I am a professional cyclist. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713640)

Can the motors in question apply the same amount of pressure that can be produced by squeezing the human hand?

Re:I am a professional cyclist. (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713740)

Can the motors in question apply the same amount of pressure that can be produced by squeezing the human hand?

Since they were designing an impractical proof-of-concept, I think it's safe to say that they could easily come up with motors that can provide the same (or more) pressure as human hands. When you have no real weight or energy concerns, anything is possible.

What happens when... (1)

Simozene (899342) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713662)

...someone figures out how to send a brake command to other people's bikes from a laptop? Even better yet, just send the brake command to people's front brakes... flipping them over when they least expect it! I imagine sitting by the window in a coffee shop while all the bikers who attempt to ride by are in for quite a surprise.

Very bad idea. (1)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713672)

I like my brakes reliable. I know as a BMXer when the current trend is to go brakless I sound like a heretic. I'm old. I'm an old-school BMXer, [livejournal.com] I think the trend is stupider than these brakes, but at least someone who follows the trend knows they're riding without brakes unlike the people with these wireless ones.

I would be worried about other problems. When I ride my dork bike [livejournal.com] I have a pair of Cy-Fi Bluetooth speakers on my handlebars blaring AC/DC and Beastie Boys at people I pass. Every time I stop at a stoplight something happens. My music get interrupted. I'm not sure exactly what goes on with stoplights, but there's very definitely something going on wirelessly that interferes with my Bluetooth speakers. When I got caught at the train tracks the speakers were out for more than just the little blips stop-lights create. This isn't metal from the train blocking my signal, the phone that the music is getting streamed from is in the leg pocket on my carpenter pants. I would be worried about this phenomenon not only engaging my brakes when I don't want them engaged, but also preventing them from working as well. This isn't just failure after poor maintenance and abuse, this is every single stoplight in the Houston area and I'm sure other places as well.

I'm glad they aren't looking to deploy these yet, and I hope they don't. It's hard to beat the simplicity of a simple wire. It's also the same reason Soviets in MIGs could pull off maneuvers our pilots in F-whatever planes couldn't because the electronics wouldn't allow them to.

Re:Very bad idea. (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713828)

some stoplights have sensors that use EM waves to detect the presence of vehicles.

Thinking toward the future... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713694)

Granted, it's probably far into the future, if we ever do go this route... think about cars that drive themselves, or even that take some level of control in dangerous circumstances. I think there are already cars now that can sense the distance from themselves to the next car in front... what if a control system like this could be added to allow such cars to have more information and to coordinate with each other?
 
This could allow such vehicles to avoid collisions, or at least minimize their effects - something very worthwhile. I'm glad to see this sort of project come through and succeed - we need reliable, split-second wireless communication because it gets us a little closer to such a dream.

Pointless (0)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713714)

Making a popular set of bike brakes wasn't really the point of the project,' says blogger Kevin Fogarty. 'The project was to find out how to make the wireless connections between two components of a system that has to operate in real time – with milliseconds of difference between success and failure (PDF) – more reliable than systems that are normally connected by a wire.'"

New project: Getting into space by jumping. The purpose isn't to actually get a satellite into orbit, just to find out how to get there by "Jumping Real Hard (tm)".

Batterys (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713744)

Now why do need to have a Battery to have working brakes? On a bike?

on trains at least the brake systems fails to a stop state but any ways on a train why not have a cable any ways you need them to power it and the pipes for the air system.

Cranes, drawbridge motors, and industrial machinery all need power cables and or hydraulic tubes and running cat 6 / other data cables is next to nothing in scale.

Track bike (1)

OhHellWithIt (756826) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713786)

I'll stick to my track bike, thank you, which has a single, cable-operated brake that I use for emergency stops two or three times a year.

They missed their mark in the spectrum by a bit :) (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713862)

If anything, the system should have used optical transmission. It'd be fairly interference- and jam-proof, had they decided to use a modulated transmission -- modulated using a carrier and a PRN code so that multiple bikes in vicinity would not interfere with each other. GPS satellites do transmit at the same frequency, after all, and there's no interference.

Due to small distance between the handlebar and the actuator/receiver, you'd need a fairly powerful laser system to do any sort of large-area jamming, and any small-scale jamming would need tracking -- of course it can be retrofitted to existing, say, tracking camera systems they have on police choppers. Yet, if the transmission was done using two layers of PRN: PRN-driven frequency hopping for the optical subcarrier *and* a digital PRN code, then it could be pretty much jam-proof unless you knew the generator settings. Heck, it the PRN could come from a cryptographically secure generator, where it's "nigh impossible" to know the future code sequence without physically hacking into the box.

I don't think I would want to use any sort of a wireless brake system that uses radio, especially an unlicensed ISM band. It's a fairly preposterous idea. You could trivially swamp the receivers in bikes on a whole block using off-the-shelf radio gear with a concealed antenna. With an optical system, it's line-of-sight. A tinfoil umbrella is all you need to shield it from airborne jamming ;)

250 ms limit (1)

pz (113803) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713876)

I skimmed the PDF of their report. It's quite interesting, and despite the armchair quaterbacking on Slashdot, these people have done a pretty good job of using a life-critical system for testing out high-reliability wireless connections.

The one issue I have with their work is that they imposed an acceptability limit of 250 ms -- that is, there could be no more than 250 ms lag between a change in command (squeezing more or less hard on the brake handle) and the brake shoes actuating. That seems quite long, even unnecessarily so.

Some more dissing, I just can't stop (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37713882)

I guess the real reason the article reads like a solid WTF is that they are, supposedly, computer scientists with no experience in RF, controls, or safety-critical system design.

Hybrid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37713896)

Hybrid would make more sense, with the wireless for performance, and a standard wire as a backup.

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