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Deakin Uni promises safe three-wheeler

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Fans of Mr Bean are familiar with the set-piece gag of the three-wheeler Reliant Robin falling over. A group of Deakin University boffins believe they’ve solved the problem, and are looking for manufacturing partners to put a safe motorcycle-car crossover into production.

According to Frank Will of Deakin’s School of Engineering, makers of crossover vehicles face a problematic cost-safety tradeoff, because the mechanisms needed to safely tilt such vehicles load up the price.

Will’s team has focused on the tilt issue, creating an affordable fully-automatic tilt control mechanism dubbed SafeRide. The driver’s own balancing sense is part of the system, so that in situations such as high cross-winds or very low speeds, where the vehicle is most likely to tilt, the driver’s tendency to “lean against” the tilt helps restore balance.

The system is designed for simple manufacturing, and it allows the vehicle to be fully enclosed (readers may be familiar with the faddish partly-enclosed three-wheel scooters), improving both safety and comfort.

The skinny scooter-based prototypes built at Deakin claim motorcycle-like fuel economy of better than 2.5 litres per 100km, ABS brakes, airbags and seatbelts. If you want high performance, you’ll probably prefer the revived Morgan three-wheeler, but the builders hope their take on “Tomorrow’s Car” could be sold for under $AU20,000.

Will’s group is currently seeking funding and manufacturing partners to help create a full prototype. They will be presenting their results to date at Deakin’s International Clean Vehicle Conference in September. ®

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