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Vehicle automation coming to motorcycles

Self-driving cars have gotten a lot of press in recent years, having logged almost 10 million miles on the road between the main companies developing them. Semi-autonomous vehicles already on the market have logged even more miles, with sensors and cameras assisting drivers with following distance, cruise control and other aspects of the road. For a long time, the only vehicle on the road without any kind of automation whatsoever was the motorcycle. That's about to change.

Safety Innovation: A New Age

The risks of riding a motorcycle are well-known. Compared with driving a car, motorcycle fatalities are 28 times more common. Injuries are more common, too, and tend to be more severe since there’s nothing in between the rider and the road. Despite these safety discrepancies, motorcycle protection features remained static for years. However, some companies have started tailoring their smart vehicle technology for two wheels.

Bosch, a major parts supplier to the automotive industry, is now developing a driver-assistance system for motorcycles, which includes adaptive cruise control that continuously adjusts to avoid collisions.

Startups are beginning to spring up around automated motorcycle safety, too, with Damon X Labs developing similar technology to Bosch. Ride Vision, having completed its first round of financing, aims to develop a camera-based alert system that depends on a 360-degree view of the surrounding environment.

Challenges

Unfortunately, technologies for cars can’t simply be installed on motorcycles, since their operation is entirely different. While a car can suddenly brake if a sensor tells it to, the same maneuver could be disastrous for a motorcycle rider. It’s often safer for a biker to steer out of a situation -- or even speed up -- than it is to slow down precipitously. Visual alert systems warning of an impending collision could be a solution.

Opportunities

One of the benefits of developing these safety systems is that they don’t have to work in the broad range of weather that car systems do. Because 97 percent of all motorcycle accidents occur in good weather, difficulties with rain and sleet won’t be nearly as big of a problem. This may mean that systems can be rolled out faster and more effectively.

Even with assistive technology, riders still need to be careful. These systems are still in their infancy and can’t yet compete with good old-fashioned vigilance. Stay alert.

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