Students and academics at UKZN’s Discipline of Mechanical Engineering demonstrated two of their latest innovations in smart transport technology along the North Beach promenade. The two innovations - the Smart Technology Pedal Bus and the Human Operated Recumbent Electric Trike (THOR-ET) - reflect new age technologies that are environmentally friendly and aimed at transforming the way commuters travel in and around the city. Both vehicles travelled from close to Joe Cool’s restaurant to Blue Lagoon and back. Early morning beachgoers caught a glimpse of the vehicles and also got the opportunity to hop-on and hop-off the pedal bus. The aim of the demonstration was to promote the use of the vehicles as alternative modes of transport for the "city of the future".
Academic Leader for the Discipline of Mechanical Engineering Professor Glen Bright said: ‘Both innovations provide an integrated transport system that could change lives, if adopted, especially in the inner-city of Durban. The vehicles can reduce traffic congestion and promote healthy living.
The Smart Technology Pedal bus has recently been modified with the addition of solar panels to generate renewable energy, and advanced speed and braking control systems. The team of developers are working to further automate the vehicle so that it becomes a driverless bus with the ability to travel pre-programmed routes around a city centre, picking up and dropping off passengers at bus stops.
More about the vehicles:
Smart Technology Pedal Bus
The bus is propelled by several people – the driver sits at the front of the vehicle, controlling the steering, braking and power assistance, while rows of people sit on bike seats and provide the pedal power to help move it forward. An electric motor, which uses solar technology, helps to partly power the bus. If the pedallers need to rest, the motor can be switched to take over at full power. Unique provision has also been made to incorporate the serving of refreshments on a tabletop in the centre of the bus.
The Human Operated Recumbent – Electric Trike (THOR-ET)
A three-wheeled vehicle propelled by a single electric hub motor, with the addition of human pedal power for assistance up steep hills.