At CES 2024, we are showcasing how the world's leading brands are building with Amazon's devices and services, and leveraging the latest innovations in artificial intelligence to build the next generation of ambient experiences. This article is part of a series that showcases select brands on display at the Amazon Experience Area at CES 2024.
Many of us remember our first e-bike ride. That exhilarating sense of speed, the wind in your hair, and the world rushing by are visions that persist over time. Over time, however, the bicycle has largely remained unchanged from its basic design. Weel, an Alexa Fund portfolio company, is on a mission to change that.
Weel has created a software-driven e-bike (EVB) designed to be safer, more practical, and more convenient. Attendees of the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) will have the opportunity to see the e-bike in action at the Amazon Experience Area, where Weel will demonstrate unique features ranging from adaptive steering to fully autonomous driving. The Alexa Fund, which has provided venture capital funding to fuel not only voice innovation but also areas such as artificial intelligence, hardware, and entertainment, has invested in Weel to further the startup’s vision of making sustainable transportation accessible to all.
“We want people to be able to enjoy the benefits of biking,” says David Hansen, co-founder of Weel. “We want them to feel good about not driving, about using less carbon in their lives. But the way to do that is to give them something that they really enjoy.”
Software for safer cycling
Weel is redefining the cycling experience by developing an e-bike with software at its center. This advanced approach makes the e-bike appealing not only to hobby riders but also to those seeking a practical and enjoyable ride.
“We don’t stop to think about it, but unless you’re extremely skilled on an e-bike, you’re actually unsafe on an e-bike,” says Hansen. “What we’re trying to do is make bikes that are so accessible, so simple, and so joyful to ride that it’s more like riding in a golf cart or a car.”
Weel’s e-bike is completely software-defined, resonating with cyclists and tech enthusiasts alike. “Our product is essentially a computer that has an e-bike wrapped around it,” says Hansen. “The e-bike has a single brake lever that is much more like driving a car where you pedal or hit the throttle and it goes, and then you hit the brake and it stops.”
The throttle, pedals, and brake lever are not mechanically connected to any one component; instead, the throttle and the brake are controlled by sensors. Riders pedal into a force-feedback generator, which is a pedal-by-wire system where software controls the behavior of motors in both the front and rear wheels.
The e-bike includes a range of powerful features designed to make cycling simpler and safer. For example, the e-bike can be remotely controlled through a mobile app. The e-bike employs advanced traction control to prevent slippage and improve stability on slippery or uneven surfaces. It also features an anti-lock braking system, which helps reduce the risk of skidding.
Weel’s self-balancing technology automatically adjusts the e-bike’s center of gravity to keep it upright, helping prevent potentially dangerous falls. This feature is especially valuable for new or less confident riders. “This is actually how we got the attention of the Alexa Fund,” says Hansen. “Someone had shared with them a video of our e-bike self-balancing, and then they came to our Seattle offices to see it in action.”
Users can control the e-bike with Weel’s app, adding a layer of convenience and personalization to the riding experience. Through the app, users can configure numerous settings, tailoring the e-bike to their specific needs and preferences. The app provides near-real-time information on speed, directions, and more, making each ride both efficient and enjoyable. Additionally, the app lets riders set specific fitness goals, like calorie burning, and the e-bike automatically adjusts pedal resistance to meet these objectives.
Licensing technology to Original Equipment Manufacturers
Weel initially envisioned creating a ride-sharing service for autonomous bicycles, but this vision proved challenging. The startup would have been required to prioritize city contracts over customer-centric innovations, and cities are often slow to adopt new technologies.
Weel pivoted to focus on personally owned bikes, permitting the company to concentrate on developing user-friendly features and enhancing the individual rider’s experience.
In recent years, the startup has begun to collaborate with original equipment manufacturers to extend its technology to other types of vehicles, prioritizing both safety and innovation.
“Our new focus is on taking this tech that we developed for autonomy and then doing it with riders in mind to try and make safer bikes that are enjoyable,” says Hansen. “We’re working with several original equipment manufacturers on concept vehicles like scooters and motorcycles, bringing more confidence and safety to riders.”
Weel’s vision is to transform the biking experience, and with advanced software and technology, it is poised to accomplish just that. The startup envisions a future where the open-air benefits of bikes are merged with greater comfort, inspiring more people to embrace cycling.
“One of the most-produced vehicles ever is the bicycle, and to me, it is the most enjoyable for the longest amount of time,” says Hansen. “At Weel, our thinking is very rider-first. There are good environmental effects from bikes. With high ridership in a city, you can engage in different types of urban planning. We benefit from the large-scale adoption of bikes.”
Currently in closed beta in Seattle, Weel’s software-defined e-bike will be showcased at the upcoming CES in Las Vegas. If you want to see the e-bike in action, make sure to visit the Amazon Experience Area at CES 2024. For more information on Weel and to learn how to license their technology for bikes that you want to bring to market, visit Weel’s website.