A mechanical engineering grad student at Syracuse University has invented a safer way to navigate a bike.
23-year-old Jeremy Mingtao Wu received his undergraduate degree in automotive technology in China and is currently studying at the L.C. Smith College of Engineering.
After studying automotive safety history in his undergraduate program, he realized that advances in bike safety were negligible compared to seat belts, air bags and impact-absorbing bumpers for cars. In fact, in the last century, Wu says that the only device developed to make bikers safer was the helmet.
Wu’s hoping to change that with a new app for smartphones called Bikerules.
Bikerules will link user smartphones to a blinker system on their bicycle’s handlebars. Cyclists enter their destination into the navigation app, and as they near a turn in their path, the system will activate the relevant blinker on the handlebars.
The blinking light serves the dual purpose of alerting riders to an upcoming turn without requiring them to look at a map or a phone and warning nearby drivers to the cyclist’s intent.
Bicycle injuries in the US pose a serious problem. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 726 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2012 alone, and injury estimates were as high as 49,000.
Wu designed the prototype for Bikerules in a sustainable manufacturing class with two other students who have since graduated, leaving Wu to finish the project. They won a $2,000 invention and creativity grant through Syracuse’s engineering college.
Over the summer, Wu has been working ceaselessly on the prototype at the Syracuse Student Sandbox. The incubator program helps aspiring entrepreneurs transform their ventures from ideas into reality.
Wu also hosted a booth at the Ride and Run for the Rescue event in June at Long Park Branch, picking the brains of the event’s almost 700 participants to survey the potential market for Bikerules. He left feeling optimistic and plans to price the app at less than $30.
A Kickstarter campaign will hopefully help Wu hire a manufacturer and pursue a patent. Currently, he’s using a 3-D printer to manufacture prototypes, and interested bicyclists can contact Wu to test them out.
Wu plans to eventually integrate heart and calorie monitors into the app and simplify it so it’s easy for bikers to be safe on the road.