Denso Corp exhibited a prototype of an in-wheel motor system that helps move a baby carriage, shopping cart, etc, at Ceatec Japan 2014, which runs from Oct 7 to 11, 2014, in Chiba Prefecture, Japan.
Each wheel incorporates a motor, communication module and battery. It is possible to use multiple wheels at the same time. The wheel is controlled by deciding a moving direction on a smartphone screen.
From a smartphone, control data such as of speed and rotation angle is transmitted to each wheel via Bluetooth. In addition, each wheel detects its relative position and distance by using infrared light to exchange data with the other wheels.
For example, if the user gives an order to turn right with a smartphone, the smartphone application controls all the wheels so that the wheels on the left side rotate faster than those on the right side to efficiently make a turn.
This time, Denso exhibited three- and four-wheel types. The four-wheel type has a motor that changes the orientation of the wheel (in addition to a driving motor) on the top of it, making it possible to change the orientation of the wheel even when the vehicle is not moving.
The exhibited system can move an object with a mass of up to 20kg. Its maximum speed is about 2km/h (approx 1.24mph). It can be powered by a battery for three hours.
To put the in-wheel motor system into practical use, it is necessary to build infrastructure that contactlessly charges the battery in the wheel. Therefore, Denso considers that the system is suited for use in shopping centers, airports, manufacturing plants, etc.