Motorcycle innovations to aid accident prevention
Posted by: The personal injury help and advice team
Speeding is, without doubt, a major contributor to road accidents, injury and, worse, death statistics on public roads. Unfortunately, as is the case, it is not just road users and their passengers that can suffer as a result of an accident especially when caused by excess speed. Innocent bystanders all too easily become unwitting victims of speed; excess or otherwise. A child walking to school, shoppers, horse riders, cyclists, road maintenance workers… the list is endless. Essentially anybody in close proximity to a road, regardless of its classification, is at risk from speeding road users and not just as a result of speed-related accidents and incidents.
Policing, traffic calming measures, advanced driving practice and the sterling work of groups such as road safety charity Brake and their high-profile annual campaigns such as Road Safety Week all play important roles in traffic incident reduction. However, technology is just as vital in prevention and for assistance to minimise the outcome of an accident and is very effective because it can be placed at source (within the vehicle) or at incident specific areas where it can work silently and efficiently. It is actually technology that is making big strides in road safety especially within motorcycling because of the vulnerable nature of the motorcyclist; a person free of the captive presence of a metal structure; the protective cage of a car body.
Motorcyclists have a bad time in general when it comes to incidents. Because, for most of their accident/incident involvement, they are innocents in much the same way as pedestrians (non-road users) and road users affected through no fault of their own. So it is with much joy that a great deal of future hi-tech is now being placed at the door of motorcycle safety…
- Realrider emergency assist
Realrider is a standalone smartphone app that utilises mobile technology to detect a crash incident. By monitoring your smartphone’s built-in sensors (accelerometer/GPS/gyro etc.), the subscription-fee Realrider app detects crash related info such as rapid deceleration tumbling/spinning motions along with periods of inactivity. If the app recognises the info as a crash then it will trigger a two-minute ‘crash detected’ alarm before sending an alert to the emergency services 999 contact number. The alert will then be directed to a medical ambulance control team and will include your exact location and personal information. This particular alert system is gaining in popularity because it is not motorcycle manufacturer specific and so any motorcyclists can have access to the app and the quality service it provides.
For more information visit: www.realrider.com
- Intelligent Emergency Call (ECALL)
BMW Motorrad’s Intelligent Emergency Call (ECALL) is an on-board bike crash detection system and is a derivative of detection units used in BMW Group produced cars. The bike version monitors electronic systems to determine if a crash has occurred before automatically alerting emergency services. The system is that refined it can determine between serious crash scenarios and less critical incidents with the latter allowing the rider time to cancel the primed alert. No outside app is required or an activation SIM to be purchased because the system is built into the motorcycle. At the moment ECALL is an optional accessory for BMW Motorrad machinery. The list of countries where ECALL can operate is growing rapidly.
Please visit BMW Motorrad Safety 360° for further information on its rider safety programme.
- Unnatural balancing act
Honda and BMW Motorrad have displayed remarkably similar innovative technology that maintains a motorcycle’s upright stance. Yes, the bike stands upright all by itself – obviously it needs to be switched on. Honda’s prototype system, Riding Assist-e, features on an all-electric experimental bike and utilises robotics technology; Honda motorcycles borrowed micro-circuitry and gyro-tech found in Honda’s famous Asimo robot. Where BMW’s system originates is anyone’s guess (a lot of fingers have been pointed towards Bosch) but exist it does and was displayed for the world to see at “Iconic Impulses. The BMW Group Future Experience” exhibition in Los Angeles, 2016. The displayed bike was part of BMW Group’s vision for vehicle manufacturing over the next 100 years.
Both brands showed their prototype motorcycles supporting themselves at standstill, with or without rider – Honda went further with video of its prototype bike following its rider (keeper!) totally unaided by human physical input. So how does this balancing act figure as a safety aspect? It would definitely prevent embarrassing topple overs at traffic lights or junctions when a rider loses his/her footing. Both systems are also geared to aid the rider maintain balance/vertical presence in slow moving scenarios such as heavy, slow moving traffic, or in poor weather conditions such as ice, snow or torrential rain when a rider has to ride slowly and carefully. Honda’s design also incorporates variable auto-geometry, meaning the mechanical steering axis can be changed at the push of a button or auto-intervention to give neutral steering and, therefore, increase stability.
See Honda’s self-balancing bike here.
- Vehicle-to-Vehicle communication
BMW Group has been a major player in developing vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, technology that allows vehicles within a defined area to communicate warnings to each other. Drivers are alerted to these warnings via dashboard text and monotone electronic voices as heard from many GPS systems. Different methods of communication are being trialled but the most favoured is mobile Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) technology, where each vehicle acts as transmitter and receiver of signals originating from ground source information furniture, basically wireless sub-stations built into cats eyes, roadside road and traffic signs etc.
Motorcycles hadn’t really figured as such in V2V technology because the hardware for V2V can be installed within a car but bikes do not have additional space for such systems. However, this has now changed. Working under the auspices of the European Motorcycle Manufacturers Association (ACEM) and in close cooperation with the Car2Car Communication Consortium, BMW has been developing its V2V technology to include motorcycles.
October 2017 saw BMW Motorrad release details of a prototype motorcycle V2V application going by the name of ConnectedRide. Because V2V systems require inter connection with other motorcycles and cars, BMW realised cooperation between manufacturers was needed and this led to BMW, Honda and Yamaha talking together. In 2016 the three brands founded the Connected Motorcycle Consortium (CMC). It wasn’t long before Kawasaki, KTM and Suzuki also signed up. The role of CMC is to set the basis for developing technology to enable motorcycles to be part of cooperative intelligent transport systems (C-ITS). As a show of unification, the three founding players of CMC displayed motorcycles with a common V2V application currently undergoing prototype development. The bikes were a BMW R1200RS, Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin and a Yamaha Tracer 900.
BMW’s R1200RS ConnectedRide was kitted out with various systems designed to warn the rider and other road users of each other’s presence and share accident prevention information. Honda and Yamaha’s bikes carried similar systems to demonstrate cross-manufacturer compatibility. Development of motorcycle V2V systems is now at fever pitch because the CMC has set the year 2020 as a target for every ACEM member to have a production motorcycle with C-ITS capabilities.
The amount of safety information that can transmitted by V2V will depend on what research teams and vehicle manufacturers believe riders can handle – if radio station advertising infuriates you then you can understand the amount of fine tuning V2V info will require. At the moment research is aiming at motorcycle positioning in relation to another vehicle e.g. pulling out of a blind junction you will receive a dash-based warning icon or voice alert to say a bike/car is approaching. Weather conditions (ice, rain etc.), hazardous junctions, train crossings, up to the minute crowd volumes, accidents ahead and more are in the pipeline for motorcycle V2V. One other aspect is real time speed warnings, not just to announce the rider is over the regulatory speed limit, but also deliver advisory speed based on the type of corner the bike is approaching.
- Heads up people. You can see HUD is coming.
The acronym HUD stands for Head Up Display, a system devised to project important information to a transparent display in front of the vehicle operator’s eye to ensure forward focus is maintained. HUD is not new technology and development can be attributed to 1940s military aviation and the need for improved target sighting. The term HUD didn’t appear until the late 1950s and it wasn’t until the 1960s a standardised system of HUD symbols was developed by French test-pilot Gilbert Klopfstein. Nowadays, HUD systems are everywhere, from cars to commercial and private aircraft to space helmets. Now motorcycling is starting to reap the benefit of HUD.
Over the last ten years or so, many small companies have attempted to design, build and market aftermarket motorcycle HUD systems. Unfortunately, budget costs, development time, non-standardisation of fitment kits and rapid advances in technology has seen early HUD brands fall by the wayside. There is also another reason for the slow response to HUD tech within motorcycling.
Motorcyclists aren’t known for their love of new technology that is believed to take away rider control even though it is designed as a safety aspect. ABS braking is a perfect example of biking “technophobia”. In 1988, BMW was first to release a production bike that featured ABS. The biking world revolted claiming a rider could out-perform the weighty system, which experienced riders proved they could. Shift forward some years and ABS became so advanced to become a major selling point. In 2015, ABS became mandatory for all motorcycles over 125cc and some systems can include ABS that operates with the motorcycle leant over mid-corner.
HUD is a safety aid – not having to look down at the dash display near the handlebars for speed reading, fuel level, gear position etc. is ideal when you consider that just two seconds spent trying to read a wet dash display at 70mph means you’ve ridden 62.6 metres (205 ft.) with your eyes off the road ahead. The problem is there is no standardisation for bike HUD because of a) the amount of different helmets available means in-helmet mounting aggravation, and b) how relevant information from the dash display can be projected to the transparent eye piece – bike dash displays and electrical systems aren’t accessible.
One answer is for HUD producers to build in applications that work remote to a bike’s standard system either by using dedicated built in GPS systems for speed and directional capacity (coupled with in-ear speakers), or by mobile phone apps via Bluetooth wireless technology to give a modular form of HUD. One such example is the Nuviz aftermarket HUD system, which incorporates a GPS unit, video and stills camera plus in-helmet headset for music and phone call use via a smartphone.
BMW Group, under the guise of BMW Motorrad, in 2016 gave a tempting glance of future motorcycling HUD application within its Vision Next 100 experimental bike – a rolling representation of what the German brand’s motorcycles could be like in 100 years. The rider was wearing a pair of tinted, wind cheating protective glasses with HUD capability. Not only would these glasses give every day riding info (speed, gear selection, rpm etc.) it would provide GPS and target sighting for the correct line through each corner the rider came across. More importantly, the HUD will incorporate its proposed ConnectedRide V2V communication system.
- Light up, light up
Motorcyclists are all too often involved in accidents as a result of their motorcycles and indeed themselves not being seen clearly even on open roads in good weather conditions. It doesn’t just happen with bike and rider travelling towards oncoming traffic (turning or in forward motion), pedestrians crossing the road, or vehicles pulling out of junctions. There is also the problem of other road users seeing motorcycles in front of them. Motorcycle rear lights are bright but small and mounted in a position so only the following vehicle can immediately spot one – unlike automobiles, which can have high-level mounted braking lights.
Several aftermarket helmet-mounted rear lights are now appearing mainly on internet sales sites and could prove to be the answer to poor rear visibility of motorcyclists. The LED-based brake/indicator/running light system can be attached to helmets via Velcro pads. The light systems are battery powered and can be activated by a bike mounted wireless transmitter, which is powered by the bike’s 12v electrical system. The transmitter works by being tripped either by piggyback connection to the bike’s light wiring system or on some brake light only units by a deceleration potentiometer that comes into play with predetermined levels of hard braking.
If all motorcycle helmet rear-mounted lighting is that good, why isn’t more popular than it is? Development costs are the most obvious restriction. A lot of bikes now use multifunction CAN bus wiring systems and simply “tapping” into them can cause electrical component failure elsewhere. Every electrical component, wireless transmitter, light emitting and reflector device has to comply with regional and international rules, regulations and standards – a costly affair to achieve compliance no matter where the product is aimed. Cheap internet sales of these units are almost certain not to be compliant and should not be used. Why? If a vehicle ran into the back of a motorcyclist because the light was too bright and blinded the driver, the legal and insurance implications could be costly.