Urban bike commuters often ride terrible bikes. It’s not because they don’t want a nice ride. It’s because, with an abundance of bike thieves in most cities who can work magic on almost any lock, they feel they can’t risk locking it up in public.
The Dutch bike company Vanmoof has a bold answer to this dilemma.
At Fast Company’s Innovation Festival, they showed off the first prototype of what they say is the world’s “first smart bike.” When the bike comes to market next year, it will contain GPS tracking technology that will help recover the bike if it’s stolen. But the real innovation is in the risky guarantee it will give customers: If Vanmoof can’t recover the stolen bike within two weeks, it’ll give you a new one.
“Everyone loves how our bikes look, which is an even bigger reason not to buy one. It’s like saying ‘steal me,’” says Dave Shoemack, Vanmoof’s global marketing director. “What we hope to sell you is not a bike, but peace of mind.”
The company is still working out the details about how the policy and bike recovery will work. Likely they will charge about a $50 fee for bike recovery, to discourage people from being careless with the bikes. The bikes will have to be locked up in order for their guarantee to stay in effect. Vanmoof plans to roll out the policy slowly in different cities–in some, like New York, it would likely work with police to recover the bikes. In others, like its home base in Amsterdam, it might have its own bike recovery teams. It will retail for about $1,300 U.S. dollars, though the final price is not yet set.
Similar anti-theft technology, developed with Vodafone, is already integrated into their electrified model–and so far, of ninee bikes reported stolen, all nine have been tracked down. But the risk of theft will be higher for the new smart bike: Most electrified owners keep their bikes inside, whereas most owners of the new commuter smart bike will likely lock up outside. Vanmoof is taking a clear risk that it will be smarter than bike thieves.
The smart bike has other great features that can be controlled with an app, including the ability to see where the bike is parked, the ability to lock and unlock the integrated lock, and to share access to the bike with Facebook friends. Bike lights are also integrated directly into the body and are charged when you pedal.
Vanmoof also works with Spinlister, the peer-to-peer bike share service that soon plans to launch in Portland with the Vanmoof smart bikes (both firms shared Fast Company’s 2015 Innovation By Design awards). Vanmoof specializes in making urban commuting as accessible as possible. With the smart bike, it thinks it has tackled many of the major annoyances that urban bikers face.
Says Shoemack: “You have a lot of bike companies that do everything. We only want to do one thing: Get you from point A to B in a city.”