Back in the dog days of late summer last year, we had an unusual email land in our inbox:
‘I work on the Amazon Prime series, The Grand Tour. I've come across your product Beeline and it looks exactly what we're after.’
Could it really be?
We read and re-read the email and, after a few minutes of excitement, we wrote a reply. Our first draft probably looked something like this:
‘OH MY GOD!!’
We ultimately decided to play it cooler, said that we would be up for it, and from then on it was a whirlwind few weeks of making adjustments to the Beeline’s firmware. The main adjustment needed was to the way that the Beeline senses its orientation. For the last year, Beeline has relied on a magnetometer to sense its orientation, but the magnetometer doesn’t just measure Earth’s magnetic field - it also measures the field of nearby magnets and magnetic material. On a bike, we can measure the effects of nearby magnets by calibration. This involves twisting the bike’s handlebars all the way to the left and to the right, lifting the front wheel straight up into the air, and then twisting the handlebars again - you know the drill!
Clearly, we needed to come up with an alternative method: The Grand Tour wanted to mount the Beelines to the dashboard of cars. So Charlie, our engineer, hit the books and hatched a plan for another method, using GPS to sense the heading instead of the magnetometer. This method would lean on the Beeline’s gyroscope much more than before, and would eliminate bike gymnastics previously required. Simple.
The pressure was on - The Grand Tour team was leaving in three weeks for their reccy trip in Canada and we needed to have flawless software with them by then to be able to confirm that we could be in the show. And the first tests? Not entirely successful. The directional arrow was drifting and almost completely failed going round corners.
The following two weeks saw Charlie’s mum driving him in loops round north London as he studied the arrow and adjusted his calculations. The rest of the team jumped in Ubers, trains, Land Rover Defenders and any other large multi-wheeled large steel or aluminium vehicles we could get our hands on. With just a few days remaining before they set off for Canada, Charlie smashed through the final hurdles to finalise the software and we had something that would reliably point them in exactly the right direction. Whether or not that meant the right way...you’ll have to watch the episode (or read our summary) to find out.
The Grand Tour, ‘Oh, Canada’, aired 00:00 GMT Friday 9th February, 2018