Smart Electric Vehicle Balances on Two Wheels


San Francisco startup Lit Motors has created the C1, a two-wheel, self-balancing electric vehicle that brings the benefits of a motorcycle together with the safety and comfort of a car, according to founder and CTO Danny Kim. After speaking on stage at GreenBiz's Verge conference event just blocks from his Lit Motors Lab, he invited Intel Free Press to his warehouse to talk about the technology his team is building into the C1. To make the C1 affordable, appealing, safe and perform optimally, Kim turned to technologies such as computer aided design, stabilization mechanisms and embedded computer systems tied to sensors functioning somewhat like the sensors found under the hood of Android and Apple smartphones, says Kim. At the core of C1 are two 40-kilowatt electric motors and nestled beneath the driver seat are a set of heavy, fast-spinning gyroscopes, similar to the positioning and orientation technology used in the International Space Station and many satellites. These gyros put out 1,300-foot pounds of torque, providing enough balancing power "that it would take a baby elephant to knock it over," said Kim. In addition to the frame, body and battery recharging system there's an intricate nervous system spread throughout the vehicle that collects data and returns instructions processed by two Intel Core i7 desktop computer chips. This is what turns the motorcycle into a robot. "There are servos, gyro and traction motors, inertia and infra red sensors, temperature and heat sensors, really a myriad of sensors that all feed data to be processed," said Kim. "Through that process, a command goes to the gryos to tilt and lean the vehicle to keep it balanced or to lean into a turn -- it's all heavily based on the computer processing system." 

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