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Project Aura wheel lighting system

Commuter, Concept, Student Design 10 1864

Project Aura wheel lighting systemAccording to the Core 77 blog, Project Aura is a bicycle lighting system designed to address the issue of nighttime urban bike commuting.” The design, by Ethan Frier and Jonathan Ota of Carnegie Mellon University, was recently chosen as the student winner in the Transportation category of this year’s Core77 Design Awards. You can read more about the concept in an older post at Core 77.

Unlike similar wheel lights (Cyglo tires and MonkeyLectric spoke lights for instance), The Project Aura lighting system is based on LEDs that are integrated into the rim. The LEDs are powered by a hub dynamo, so the lighting becomes a closed system integrated into the wheels.  Frier and Ota explain the idea behind integrating the lights into the wheels:

Project Aura wheel lighting system“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.”

As I have mentioned in the past, I use blinking lights and reflective tape on my commuter bike to increase visibility…especially on the rims and pedals. I agree with the point made by the Project Aura design team that, compared to a blinking light, a couple of spinning rings of light allows a driver to immediately identify the source as a bicycle. Though Frier and Ota won the student design award with a working prototype, they acknowledge that their project is still in its infancy. At this point they are continuing to develop the product and hope to someday put it on the market. Sounds good…I’m looking forward to seeing the next iteration of Project Aura.

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  1. Nick F August 8, 2011 at 1:37 pm -  Reply

    I love the idea and the effect! Though I think they’ve got some complex challenges ahead if they want to bring it to production… Weatherproofing and vibration-proofing the many LEDs and wires used in this system is a complication vs. a centrally located light source. Having the system require a total-wheel solution is also a challenge – it means the thing will be expensive and require commitment to adopt, relegating it to a niche product.

    It will be interesting to see how they address these issues going forward. I hope they succeed… the final result is by far the nicest of the 3 similar ideas you mentioned. Monkey Lectric is cool, but inherently sort of dorky…. and I can’t believe CYGLO are going forward with the absurd idea of embedding expensive and long-lasting LEDs into a cheap and frequently-replaced tire. Their next product – embedding precious rare-earth metals into toilet paper, so you can waste resources every time you flush.

  2. Andy August 8, 2011 at 2:24 pm -  Reply

    A new rim and hub is quite an expense. I bought a dyno light because having light up front in necessary for riding at night and as a daily commuter, it was worth the cost to not have to mess around with charging batteries. But for optional lighting on the side, this sounds like a big investment. I’d be curious to see what their costs are, how durable the rim is, what the hub is like, etc.

  3. Steve A August 8, 2011 at 7:45 pm -  Reply

    I expect this to disappear as suddenly as it appeared, as do most expensive products that fill an imaginary need.

  4. AJ August 9, 2011 at 8:53 am -  Reply

    I like the look of these. If so concerned about safety while riding, use a helmet?

    • James Thomas August 9, 2011 at 9:37 am -  Reply

      The picture is dark, but he is wearing a helmet. Look closely and you can see the straps.

    • Andy August 9, 2011 at 9:41 am -  Reply

      Uhh… because a helmet only adds a marginal amount of safety when you are hit, while lights significantly reduce the chance you will be hit. You would wear body armor but ride without lights.

    • Thieme Hennis September 1, 2011 at 11:03 am -  Reply

      just wanted to post that one as well. 🙂

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