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UW Bothell’s unconventional autonomous tricycle

Autonomous isn’t just for autos

UW Bothell

Take Seattle’s love for cycling, new technology, a need for affordable transit options, and be glad for some unconventional thinking at UW’s Bothell campus.

People create conventions quickly.

Cycling is bicycling, but not solely. Tricycles have been around for a long time and are still popular with people who want a smoother ride, less wind resistance, and the chance to stop without falling over.

The idea of an autonomous car was radical a few years ago. Now, they’re becoming common enough that folks may wonder why they aren’t here yet, even while proposals are made for driver-less cars to share the HOV lanes.

As for affordable transit, our variety of options are evidence we’ll try anything to move people around, even a bike sharing program. Alas, poor Pronto, we barely got to know you.

Instead, students at UW Bothell created an autonomous tricycle. Why wrap people in thousands of pounds of metal to travel on pavement when a few pounds could do the same for less money, pollution, and in less space? Using a trike removes the issue of novice riders falling off bicycles. Autonomy means a wider distribution with higher utilization.

Their project is in the ugly-duckling prototype stage. As UW Bothell describes;

“The effort to get autonomous tricycles rolling is ramping up with a $75,000 grant from Amazon Catalyst, an initiative by the Seattle-based online retailer and UW’s collaborative innovation hub CoMotion.“

Whether their project succeeds, or not, they may have changed the conversation about what autonomous transportation has to look like. Autonomous autos make sense in a city known for its car culture. Maybe Seattle can be known for being a little different.

Just like many proud parents, they posted a video of their trike’s first “baby steps”, driving itself in a circle. It’s a start.