Safety device for cyclists take design inspiration from mice squeezing through tiny holes.
Nature has plenty of hidden technology that humans have picked up on over the years, but the latest example of biomimicry could help cyclists carve out more space for themselves on busy roads. Inspired by the whiskers of a mouse, a student team from California State University-Long Beach have created Vibrisee, a device that makes cyclists safer, and more comfortable on roads without separate lanes for bikes and cars.
The problem with bikes and cars on the same roads is that drivers are often looking for an opportunity to pass, which can make for some very close calls, and even cause unnecessary accidents. While mice and cats use their whiskers to figure out if they can fit through an opening, the team flipped the idea on its head, using whiskers to make a car think twice about squeezing through a tight gap.
Once installed, the four long whiskers can be activated using a button on the handlebars. Aided by reflective strips, this closes the gap for people behind the wheel of a car considering an aggressive move. When cyclists wants to turn, it’s also possible to extend the whiskers on one side, which will then start flashing to let others know about an impending turn.
Channing Shattuck, one of the students who worked on the design, explained the thought process to FastCoExist.
“The same way mice will whisk their whiskers back and forth to feel the area around them, we were thinking bikers could whisk the air,” said Shattuck. “We also took inspiration from the octopus, and the idea of transforming to warn predators or whatever’s nearby.”
Created as part of Biomimicry Student Design Challenge, the team are unlikely to pursue the idea further due to a lack of time and money. Even so, it doesn’t change the fact the team might be on to something. If they can’t carry on with the work themselves, maybe someone else will be to pick up where the students left off.