This is actually three different patents for the same idea. All of the publication dates are Feb 4th, 2021, and all were filed July 29th, 2021.
20210031881 – Operating System for Human-Powered Vehicle. Buttons on both levers
20210031871 – Operating Device for Human-Powered Vehicle. Buttons and a screen on both levers
20210031870 – Operating Device and Assist Driving System for Human-Powered Vehicle. I’m not going to talk about this one. This is about how the signals are derived and sent, and no one gives a shit about that.
Brief Summary (tl;dr)
Shimano are introducing a wireless user interface system for road E-bikes, with integrated buttons and a screen are located at the end of the control levers. The buttons are configured to change settings of an E-bike motor and the screen displays information like battery power, mode, etc. to the rider. There’s also a little speaker and a vibrating unit inside the levers to provide information without looking at the screen. This system can also change gears wirelessly.
The intended novelty of 20210031881 is the system contains 2 control levers, where one of the levers will control the E-bike motor.
The intended novelty of 20210031871 is the system has one control lever, where the lever has a little screen to inform a user of metrics of the E-bike motor and also has an operating member (brake lever/shifter) to control something other than the E-bike motor.
As usual, Shimano don’t say much as to why they do anything. Part of the reason is that they want to be able to control the motor from the bars.
With the operating system according to the first aspect, it is possible to operate the assist driving unit using at least one of the first user interface mounted to the first operating device and the second user interface mounted to the second operating device. Thus, the operating system can improve operability of the assist driving unit.
It’s possible this is a safety feature, with riders not having to take their hands off the bars to change settings. More than likely, since this is a wireless system, this is just the next logical step and will be a cleaner look.
This section is going to mix the two patent applications, so the figures may be the same number, but that just means they’re from different applications. Also, this patent is circuit-heavy so I’m not going to include any of that.
Fig. 4 below shows the first system in question. Notice how each of the bar ends have little circles. These little circles are buttons and lights. SW11, 12, 21, and 22 are toggle buttons to control the motor and 14N and 16N are lights to notify the rider of battery levels or communication information. I’m assuming that means things like connection to the motor.
Figs 5 and 6 show side views of the system. 14E and 16E are the power sources with batteries and the charging ports are just below them. 14K and 16K are the wireless communicators. The images don’t show them too well, but they’re there. Shimano aren’t clear, but these wireless communicators will obviously communicate with the motor, but they may also communicate with a smartphone or computer.
Fig 5 below shows the second example with a little integrated screen, called an informing unit, on the left bar end. Shimano say the informing unit FU can inform the user using visuals (screen), auditory (sound), and haptic (vibration).
…the informing unit FU is configured to inform the user of the first information at least one of visually, auditory and haptically.
So, along with the screen, there’s also a speaker and vibrating unit inside the control lever to inform the rider of power levels, modes, etc. without looking down at the bars. I think that’s a pretty cool little feature.
Figs 6 and 7 below show some examples of what the little screen may look like. These are showing modes (L, M, H), battery level, and speed. This system will probably be able to show more information when it’s released, but this is what Shimano want/can protect. I wouldn’t be surprised if this system will show mileage, cadence, power, etc. in the future; which would make a cycling computer unnecessary. It would be really cool to see one of these screens with a little GPS unit and a map, but Shimano don’t state one thing about GPS, so that’s complete conjecture and should be taking with a grain of salt.
All those little wave looking things represent wireless signals, so there’s no question this is a wireless system.
Lastly, Shimano also state this system can change gears wirelessly:
The actuation controller 22 includes a communicator 22B… the communicator 22B includes a wireless communicator… the actuation controller 22 is configured to control the gear changing device GC to change the gear ratio of the gear changing device GC based on the first user operation input…
Here’s a few more configurations Shimano have drawn out.
This one shows buttons on the side of the control lever. I actually like this configuration because my thumbs would be right there anyway.
In the end, we’ve got another example of a wireless Shimano system. This one seems to be all-encompassing with wireless shifting, motor controls, and a user interface. And with the use of a processor and memory, this system is much more versatile than this patent leads on. Any sensor that is already available for a bike (cadence, torque, GPS, etc.) could be integrated into this system. Wow, that sounds expensive.
Wireless Shimano is coming, probably not until 2023 at the current rate of part availability, but it’s coming.