Specialized unveils self-riding bicycle

Specialized unveiled the world’s first self-riding bicycle on Friday.

Using the same technology as self-driving cars, Specialized said the self-riding bicycle removes the biggest obstacle to cycling: rider error.

“Let’s face it, cyclists are the weakest link when it comes to bicycle safety,” said Specialized founder and CEO Mike Sinyard. “This takes the human element out of the equation. Just put in your coordinates and hang on.”

‘Light blub’

Sinyard said the idea came to him during his 40-mile daily cycling commute from Palo Alto, Calif. to Morgan Hill, Calif., where Specialized is based. As he passed by Google’s Mountain View campus, he would stop to watch test runs of self-driving cars, he said.

“I wished I didn’t have to look where I was going so I could keep watching the tests,” Sinyard said. “It was a eureka moment.”

The first model, dubbed “Jeanny 5,” is named after a combination of world tour rider Jean-Christophe Péraud (AG2R La Mondiale) and Johnny 5, the fictional robot star of the 1986 movie “Short Circuit.”

How Jeanny 5 works

Jeanny 5 includes sensors and software to detect objects like pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles and more and is designed to safely drive around them. The bike processes route, GPS, sensor and traffic data to determine where it is in the world, what street it’s on and which lane it’s in.

It has no blind spots and 360-degree awareness, will never be in danger of a BUI or falling asleep on the hoods, Sinyard said.

“We wanted all the smarts and heroics of Johnny 5, the robot, built into a bicycle that could be beneficial to someone like Jean-Christophe Péraud, who frequently commits rider error,” said Mark Cote, head of integrated technologies at Specialized.

Peraud crash

Jean Christophe Péraud gets pushed back in to the Tour de France after a crash.

Péraud, who is currently testing the Jeanny 5 in race situations and at high speeds, was on hand to sign autographs at its unveiling.

“Cycling has always pushed the limits of the human body, now it’s time for us to push the limits of our machines,” Péraud said.

Specialized hopes to one day introduce a new race category in the United States – “Cat Mach 5” – for only riders with self-riding bikes like Jeanny 5. USA Cycling President and CEO Derek Bouchard-Hall stopped short of considering the idea, but agreed it would boost license numbers.

An additional feature allows Jeanny 5 to have conversations with the rider about a variety of topics – race strategies, rider’s problems with his or her significant other, nutrition, watt output, the current World Tour races and more.

Release date, CX model and VR Venge

Jeanny 5 will be available for purchase on the final day of the Tour de France this year. Future upgrades could include seamless integration with the SNCF high speed rail schedules.

A cyclocross model, coined the Femke 5, is currently in the early stages of design.

Sinyard said Specialized is also developing a Virtual Reality Venge which would allow the rider to simply sit on a sofa and experience the thrill of racing without actually having to push pedals.

Specialized is looking at this new “VR Venge” as a way to attract younger riders who are more comfortable playing video games than going outdoors and exercising in the fresh air.

VR Venge

Virtual Reality Venge technology is tested in an office at Specialized.