Bikers want technology but no loss of control, says BMW

While many features of connected technology are migrating from four wheels to two, there are currently no plans to add autonomous driving to the motorcycle experience.

That’s because the feeling of being in control of a large powerful machine is one of the key attractions for the bike rider, according to Michael Peyton vice-president of BMW Motorrad North America.

One such ‘beast’ of a bike BMW was displaying amid its range of executive cars at the 2018 NAIAS was the super-cruiser BMW K1600 Grand America. This intercontinental tourer boasts many of the attributes you would expect from any of the German manufacturer’s car offerings. There’s a silky-smooth 160 hp in-line across-the-frame 1.6-litre six-cylinder engine, a wind-tunnel honed front bodywork, ergonomically designed luxury dual seat and a full suite of luggage panniers and top box.

Plenty of technology we’ve come to expect in modern cars also feature on the Grand America including keyless ignition that automatically releases steering lock,

Ignition switch, fuel tank filler cap and alarm system as soon as the key is within two metres of the motorcycle. Also when you’ve had to stop on a hill, there’s a Hill Start take-off function and Adaptive headlight with xenon technology to light your way.

Electronically adjusted suspension, traction control, tyre pressure monitor and a five-inch satellite navigation screen are all features that have crossed over from the car world.

Indeed, “A lot of the TFT screen technology is the same as that used on the car side of our business,” Peyton said. He also believes the future of motorcycles exists within a mobility services package a manufacturer of both cars and bikes can provide.

He said: “We are very early on in the mix right now but things like membership and subscription models play into the customer who wants a MINI today, a motorcycle tomorrow and a 7 Series the next day. We definitely think there is demand from a customer standpoint. We do have very good loyalty among customers and a number of them are both motorcycle owners and car owners and, at times, we do see crossover.”

However, the closing of the gap between two and four wheels in terms of ADAS at least is not likely to be offered by most motorcycle manufacturers, according to Peyton. He explained: “There are two areas. From a rider’s standpoint, we still feel that the rider still wants that [control] experience, that analogue aspect of riding a motorcycle and you want to be in control of that.

“However, when you think of advanced technologies we’re looking at how that connects with connected vehicles that you are, from a safety standpoint, acknowledging motorcycles. I think this is definitely a possibility but I don’t see anything in the near future featuring autonomous technology. We’re just not seeing the consumer saying ‘I want an autonomous motorcycle’. Instead they say ‘I like motorcycling because of its analogue experience’.”



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