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Innovation & Startups

CMU news: Aura's bike lights for night riding and Astobotic's water-drilling moon rover

Industrial design majors Jonathan Ota and Ethan Frier, both avid bikers, understand the need for bikers to be more visable at night.
Studies show that 36% of all accidents occur at intersections, between the hours of 5 and 9 p.m., they say. So when they got a class assignment that asked them put their industrial design know-how to use, they came up with bike lights that can be seen on the road from almost any angle.
Called Aura (formerly Project Aura), the system uses LED lights, glowing white orbs that are rim-mounted to the bike to illuminate the wheels, alerting drivers and pedestrians to the presence of a moving vehicle.
Aura is a new way for cyclists to not only broadcast where they are, but convey how fast they are traveling, they explain. Unlike wheel tape or gimmicky products like lighted shoes, Aura is intended to make bikes pop out at night amid the urban chaos.
“The real innovation is the color changing aspect of the system,” says Ona, who regularly commutes to the Oakland campus. “It offers another level of information to drivers who can recognize more easily what a cyclist is doing.”
The LEDs illuminate red when the biker is moving slowly and white as a biker gains speed.
The pair are developing the prototype through CMU’s Project Olympus with help from a Student Undergraduate Research Grant (SURG) and support from CMU’s Greenlighting Startups. The plan is to raise money to take the design to the next level and commercialization.

In other CMU news, Astrobotic unveiled its prototype lunar rover, the solar-powered Polaris, yet another step in pursuit of the Google Lunar X $20 million prize. Polaris is equipped to search and drill for water on the Moon’s poles, in addition to other sources of potential energy.
This is the first lunar rover developed specifically to drill for water, a feature that was added as a result of scientific research that suggest that water exists on the moon in some form, says Red Whittaker, CEO of Astrobotic and director of the Field Robotics Center at CMU.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Jonathan Ona and Ethan Frier, Aura; CMU

Image of Jonathan Ona and Ethan Frier courtesy of CMU
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