Tech Universe: Friday 09 May

By Miraz Jordan

The Sada bicycle. Photo / Gianluca Sada Bike
The Sada bicycle. Photo / Gianluca Sada Bike

UNSPOKEN: One of the first things you notice about the Sada bicycle is that the 26 inch wheels are empty of spokes or a hub. Instead small wheels run inside the rim to turn the wheel. The point of the bike though is that it quickly and easily folds up to about the size of an umbrella, ready to be carried onto a train or bus. Those empty wheels just look all wrong.

BESPOKE: Cars and mountain bikes use shock absorbers for a smoother ride over rough terrain, while wheelchair users just have to tough it out. The SoftWheel redesigns things to incorporate shock absorbers into the structure of the wheel, making it easier for wheelchair users to ride down steps, for example. The Acrobat wheel features a central hub and three suspension rods that absorb shocks from any direction. On flat terrain the wheel rolls like any other rigid wheel but when encountering rough ground the suspension mechanism absorbs the shock from the impact, lessening the stress to the rider's body.

Take that chair off-road.

SPOOKY: In Gothenburg, Sweden, 100 prototype Volvo cars are driving themselves along the roads. A human driver sits behind the wheel ready to intervene, but the car itself brakes, accelerates and steers. The car uses radar, cameras and lidar to monitor the road environment and a cloud-based map for navigation. Volvo's Drive Me project involves legislators, transport authorities, a major city and real customers. Let's hope the driver is paying attention.

SPARKY: Drive an electric car in Madrid and you'll be able to park for free. Try parking a gas guzzler though and you'll pay higher fees than those whose cars are more economical. Madrid has a problem with air quality, and more than a million cars come into the city each day. Officials are trying variable parking fees to discourage people from bringing cars into the city centre. Smart parking meters will use rates determined by a complex table governed by the engine and the year of the car. That's not the only consideration though: parking on empty streets will cost less, while a street with few remaining parking spots will cost up to 20% more. Energy efficient buses and a bike sharing programme should help people switch how they travel too. If they offered free or cheap charging for the electric cars that would be another incentive.

SWANKY: Do you still use fluorescent tubes for lighting? Cree's linear LED T8 lamp could replace them. The strip produces 100 lumens per watt, has a Colour Rendering Index of 90, and it produces cool or neutral coloured light. The lights can be dimmed if attached to a suitable fitting and should last for 50,000 hours of use. Sounds like it makes good sense.

Miraz Jordan,

- NZ Herald

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