Designer: Ethan Frier & Jonathan Ota - Carnegie Mellon University
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Award: Student Winner
Project Aura is a bicycle lighting system designed to address the issue of nighttime urban bike commuting. The system challenges the current paradigm of bike lighting, and it was our intention to create a functional safety lighting system that riders want to use and want to be seen using it.
Core77 has been excited about the project since we first posted about it in May and have been highlighting different bicycle safety lighting systems like Benedikt Steinhoff's LEDs and Emily Brooke's virtual bike lane ever since.
The need for an improved Bicycle Lighting System solution is explained by the Project Aura Team:
Attachable front and rear lights are great at making riders seen, but they are not always the most effective way of increasing visibility to all motorists, especially from the side. Additionally, front and rear lights do little to identify a biker as a biker as opposed to an ambiguous blinking point of light. Many bikes have reflectors on them, both on the wheels and the frame. But reflectors are only effective when they are in the direct headlight of an automobile, an inelegant solution at best. By Illuminating the rims, we have created an immediate formal context for drivers to identify bikers as bikers and take the appropriate measures to drive safely in their vicinity. The goal of the project was to rethink the paradigm of bike lights, while increasing convenience and safely and integrating everything into a package which did not detract from the pure aesthetic of the bike coveted by riders.
Core77: How did you learn that you had been recognized by the jury?
Jon and I are in different cities this summer so we couldn't be together when the judging came out. I was at work, and the internet was too slow to watch the live stream so I was glued to the Twitter feed. Jon was able to watch the live stream, he was actually on campus at the time. Right after we found out we called each other pretty much in disbelief. It was a pretty exciting and validating moment for us.
What's the latest news or development with your project?
We are absolutely thrilled to have won the award, but the project is still very much in its infancy. Currently we are in the process of getting involved with some startup incubators on campus at Carnegie Mellon to help us bring Aura out of the prototype phase. Our goal is to see Aura out on bikes in the real world, but we still have work to do.
What is 1 quick anecdote about your project?
We had to work on a pretty tight budget, so we tried to use parts we already had lying around as much as possible. Towards the end of the project when we had finished fabricating and wiring everything, all we had to do was put the tubes and tires on the rims. The tires we had from before were much too narrow for the new rims but we had almost no money left in our budget. In Jon's words it was like "A duck trying to give birth to an elephant". We fought these tires for over an hour until our hands were literally bleeding and both tire levers we had were broken in the process. Eventually we finally got them on, I honestly don't know how. But when we went to ride it suddenly the bike didn't work. Needless to say the tires had to come right back off again. Later that afternoon after we fixed the lights we were so fed up we just rode down to the local bike shop and bought new tires after all.
Read on for full details on the project and jury comments.