Reinventing the wheel...

Written by: Tom Shelley | Published:

Scientists at Portsmouth University are using artificial intelligence to develop a 'thinking' car wheel as part of a £200,000 DTI-funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership project with PML Flightlink.


"Conventional wisdom says you can't reinvent the wheel. We have done just that," said David Brown of the university's Institute of Industrial Research. "We have taken the wheel, given it brains and the ability to think and learn."
The wheels use AI to think and learn as the car is being driven, making calculations and adjustments according to travelling speed and road conditions. University scientists are providing the AI systems for the wheels on the company's prototype eco-friendly electric super car. Microcomputers in the wheels perform 4000 calculations per second and communicate with each other.
It is said to be the first time AI has replaced fundamental mechanics within a motor vehicle and could mean tighter control, a smoother ride and a safer drive, yet the driver remains in control of the car. AI controls the suspension, steering and braking systems, teaching it to adapt to bends in the road, potholes and other potential hazards. The information is retained in memory and used the next time the car encounters similar road conditions.
Dr Brown added: "Traditional suspension means the vehicle dips when the wheels detect poor road surfaces and you get a bumpy ride, while a tight corner means the drag will slow the vehicle down. Electronic traction control and suspension will counterbalance this kind of drop and drag effect, but the driver won't even know it's there. It means a faster car, but a safer one."

...also works on bikes
A graduating student has invented and applied for a patent on a collapsible bicycle wheel.
Inventor Duncan Fitzsimons says of it: "The wheel is a full sized 700c wheel which uses regular inflatable tubular tyres and can fold into a compact, elongated shape for transportation and storage. An aluminium prototype has already been tested and proven to work on a bicycle. Next stage pre-production prototypes will include an integrated locking mechanism and composite components to reduce weight."
The project is patent pending and he is interested in finding project partners to help continue the development of the wheel and associated folding bike.
Eureka saw the aluminium prototype and a full-sized mock-up of the intended production version at this year's Royal College of Art Summer Show. The rim is jointed at six points and supported by two cross members. These rotate relative to each other either to collapse the wheel rim, or to make it circular, whereupon their relative positions are locked in place with a pin.


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