Could "Copenhagen Wheel" reinvent the urban commute?

Smart bike wheel could change transportation... 01:59

Since it was invented in the 19th century, the basic concept of the bicycle has stayed the same. That may be changing. Some believe the "Copenhagen Wheel" can be the future of urban transportation.

At his Cambridge, Mass., workshop, Assaf Biderman is reinventing the wheel.

"You start pedaling. The wheel understands how you pedal and then it helps you," he explained. "It just pushes you, multiplying your power up to 10 times."

It works like this: replace a regular bike wheel with a Copenhagen Wheel. The bike now works like an electric-hybrid car. A tiny computer tells the motor when to kick in. Plug the wheel into the wall to recharge it -- or just ride.

"If you're going downhill, it actually brakes you automatically and stores your energy in the battery," Biderman said. "If you're going uphill, it gives you an extra push."

The wheel can go as far as 30 miles at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. Biderman wouldn't show CBS News the inner workings, fearful of copycats.

A smartphone app is all it takes to program the ride.

"When you launch the app, you can select from a bunch of modes," he said. "'Flatten my city,' that's one of my favorites. That makes hills feel like they're flat."

While demonstrating the Copenhagen Wheel, Biderman describes the feel of the ride: "It responds to your pedaling."

Sanjay Sarma, MIT's Director of Digital Learning, said everyday items, like thermostats and locks, are becoming smarter thanks to powerful sensors and Wi-Fi connectivity.

"It's a whole matter of the environment adapting to you and learning about you," he said. "Every mechanical thing potentially that we deal with, has a potential of being automated and becoming much more convenient for us."

Biderman has sold several thousand wheels so far. He's hoping his Copenhagen Wheel can reinvent the commute.

"It's awesome," Biderman said. "It's actually cooler than I expected."