Connected bikes cannot compromise ‘freedom’, says Kawasaki

While connectivity services have been slow to catch on in the car industry, it’s been virtually moribund in the field of motorcycle marketing.

Yet, in spite of this manufacturers have been working together to investigate the technology and its potential with motorcycles. In 2015, the Connected Motorcycle Consortium was launched in Europe to bring together experts from BMW, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, KTM and Kawasaki to explore a shared approach on how to exploit the technology for their customers.

Yet, despite some major advantages for motorcycles, particularly in safety, there is a pervading distrust of untrammelled data sharing among both consumers and industry insiders alike.

At Motorcycle Live 2017 TU-Automotive spoke to Simon Greenacre, PR and marketing coordinator for Kawasaki Motors UK who shared these concerns. He explained: “The biggest challenge for motorcycle manufacturers will be to sell this technology in a way that it will not interfere with the consumer’s freedom to drive our vehicles how they want. It has to be used to have a positive impact on things like rider safety and, therefore, become a driver get more people onto motorcycles. It will mean that as an industry we can say ‘We’ve developed this technology to make motorcycling more accessible’.”

The average motorcyclist does not fall into anything like the categories that we see among car buyers, choosing two wheeled vehicles as a life statement more than an A-to-B machine. Greenacre expanded: “The act of riding a motorcycle, for most people, is a very proactive choice. They are not riding a motorcycle because it’s transport, they are riding because it’s an enjoyable activity. So, the perception that connectivity data could be used against the consumer to police their actions, would have a very negative affect on the industry.”

He said it is crucial for any motorcycle manufacturer to copper-bottom trust among their consumers that their data is safe. “I would like to think that any motorcycle manufacture would guarantee they customer’s date would not go anywhere they did not want it to go,” said Greenacre. “Imagine if manufacturers didn’t offer this surety – that would erode people’s trust in the brands that did so. As a motorcyclist myself, my primary concern would be that my data is safe now and forever and would not be used at anytime in the future.”

However, Greenacre acknowledged that connectivity could be used to improve safety and boost the image of motorcycling as a pastime. “We are currently working together with other manufacturers to develop technology that will allow our vehicles to communicate with other vehicles, sharing information, on the road.”

He envisages that motorcycle connected services would be very much targeted towards enhancing the riding experience rather than providing entertainment services that car users expect. Greenacre explained: “For motorcyclists, this connectivity technology will be all about safety and gaining more knowledge about the surroundings. Things such as the status of local traffic, speed limits, weather updates and anything else that could affect the journey they are on such as road conditions and road works. In an unfamiliar city, the technology could guide the rider above and beyond the offering they get at the moment from satellite navigation services.

“On the safety issue, with vehicle-to-vehicle communication, if a car is straying offline, the motorcycle can warn it to straighten up and that could, potentially, be a real lifesaver.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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