BMW is taking the safety of motorcycle riders to a new level by introducing self-driving technologies to its bikes. A video released by the German company shows the new BMW R 1200 GS motorcycle maneuvering around a test track without a driver.
The bike starts, stops, turns on a lean and brakes all by itself. Self-driving technology has advanced at a rapid pace in the last few years and its introduction to motorcycles could mean a much safer ride.
BMW want to increase rider safety
BMW Motorrad, BMW's two-wheeler division say they have been working on the technology for over two years. They don’t have plans to build a fully autonomous bike, but rather build features into the bike that will make for a much safer riding experience, primarily offering “more stability in critical riding situations.”
The technology was developed by graduate engineer Stefan Hans and his team. In addition to the impressive autonomous technology, BMW showed off a range of other new technologies that continue to make riding safer like luminous motorcycle headlights and a motorcycle frame manufactured completely using a 3D printing process.
Subtle driver assist system could save lives
Many modern cars are fitted with similar safety features such as automatic braking. This works in a car where everyone is wearing seatbelts, but sudden braking on a motorcycle could mean certain death for a ride in many situations.
Instead, BMW and likely other big names will try and keep the new features fairly subtle. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report shows that ‘per vehicle miles traveled in 2016, motorcyclist fatalities occurred nearly 28 times more frequently than passenger car occupant fatalities in traffic crashes.’
With statistics like these, it makes sense for companies to want to introduce additional safety features into bikes. However, the drawcard for many bikes is the absolute freedom that riding offers so there could be some resistance from the biking community.
Startups make headway into advanced bike technology
BMW isn’t the only company making headway into the use of driver assistance technology. Bosch has indicated they are working on technology that could be adopted by manufacturers, but perhaps the most exciting work is being done by a handful of startups.
Canadian based company, Damon X Labs claims their bike is the most technologically advanced in the world, while Israel-based startup Ride Vision has raised more than $2.5 million USD of financing for their rider safety features for motorcycles.
Ride-Vision is developing an alert system that employs relatively inexpensive front- and rear view cameras to give a 360-degree view of the motorcycle’s immediate surroundings. The system is designed to alert the driver if there is a chance of a collision. Ride-Vision doesn’t want to actually make motorcycles but hopes their technology is adopted by the existing big names.