Amazon selects self-driving bike for $75K grant

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Amazon has decided to award $75,000 to support the research of University of Washington Bothell Affiliate Professor Tyler Folsom who is developing a self-driving tricycle.

Folsom says the money will fund student interns over the next year as they work on the Elcano Project. 

“The Elcano Project aims to make self-drive real for students and hobbyists, and build a popular demand to go ahead with traffic automation,” says Folsom who teaches in the Division of Computing and Software Systems in the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The Elcano Project provides a blueprint for building an experimental automated vehicle using electronics and sensors costing under $2,000.  A tricycle with a battery-powered motor and a top speed under 20 mph is legally a bicycle, and thus street-legal without license, registration or insurance, Folsom says.

The funding comes from Amazon Catalyst, an initiative to promote bold projects with global impact proposed by members of the University of Washington community.

The name of the project, Elcano, is a subtle hint that we can do better than the standard story, says Folsom.

The trike was originally built to compete in Seattle Robotic Society's Robo-Magellan contest. The explorer Magellan did not complete the trip around the world for which he is famous. He was killed in the Philippines. A crewman, Juan Sebastian Elcano, led the 18 survivors of Magellan's expedition back to Spain in 1522. They were the first to sail around the world.