Bosch Gives Motorcycles a Shot at Safety Automation

Automated safety features are reaching a broad range of cars and trucks, and motorcycles could be next if components giant Bosch can carry out its latest ideas.

Bosch is working on capabilities such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot alerts and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication for motorcycles, the German company has announced.

It’s even exploring side thrusters to prevent bikes from tipping over.

Motorcycles may need advanced driver assistance even more than cars do. While far fewer are on the road — less than 9 million in the US in 2016, compared with nearly 135 million passenger cars — motorcycles account for more than their fair share of fatal accidents. The death rate in motorcycle crashes is 27 times that of cars, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Bosch outlined features to prevent those crashes and help to bring emergency assistance if they occur. Some, such as anti-lock braking and stability control, are already available on some bikes, while others are still emerging.

Of all the features under development, blind-spot recognition might give the biggest boost to motorcycle safety. It’s harder for riders to look behind them on the road and they are more vulnerable to cars drifting into the lane, especially if a driver overlooks the motorcycle. Just as in cars, a radar sensor on the bike would detect approaching vehicles where the rider can’t see and give a warning, such as a light in the left or right mirror.

Italian motorcycle maker Ducati recently announced plans to use front and rear radar for blind-spot visibility and adaptive cruise control beginning in 2020.

Adaptive cruise control and a collision-warning system, also in the works at Bosch, could make long rides safer and less taxing, especially in heavy traffic. The systems would maintain a safe distance between the bike and the car ahead and alert the rider of an impending crash, making it slightly less stressful to maintain a safe position all the time.

The most futuristic ideas in the works at Bosch are V2V communication and what it calls “slide mitigation.” Both might require efforts from outside the motorcycle world.

V2V lets vehicles constantly transmit their location, direction, speed, vehicle type and other data to each other. It can also include wireless communication with infrastructure, such as road signs. Cyclists won’t get much out of V2V unless most cars are using it, too.

For V2V, Bosch proposes using ITS-G5, a network based on the IEEE 802.11p standard. That’s also the foundation of Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC), the technology long designated by the US government for V2V and vehicle-to-infrastructure links.

DSRC is still only available in a few cars and now faces competition from cellular-based alternatives. But in February, Volkswagen announced it would include 802.11p in all its cars in Europe starting next year.

For the slide-mitigation concept, imagine a gas shooting out of the side of the bike to create reverse thrust. It would use a gas accumulator, like those used in airbags, and release the gas when the rider needed help keeping the bike upright, such as during a slide on oil or loose gravel, Bosch said. While that could be a life-saver, it might well get some regulatory review before being deployed on public roads.

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