Car makers BMW and Volkwagen have been teaming up for the past four years on a study funded by the German government that explores vehicle automation and interlinking. Exploring technologies that share traffic conditions not only with drivers, but also with other cars and city infrastructures, the two auto manufacturers have created systems that would help time lights at intersections, and adjust vehicle velocities in order to improve the flow of traffic and safety. While the study focused primarily on car-based systems, there stemmed a couple interesting pieces of technology that could see their way onto motorcycles in the future.
The first system carries-over heavily from the automobile research, and basically apprises a rider of the road conditions ahead. For instance when approaching a red light, the AKTIV (Adaptive and Cooperative Technologies for Intelligent Traffic) system would relay how long the light would remain red, thus allowing a rider to adjust his or her speed to intersect the light when its green.
Similar to a biofeedback device, this system could theoretically allow a rider or driver to adjust their speed in order to hit a series of timed lights, and can even calculate the most efficient speed to drive when the lights aren’t timed. Of course AKTIV is integrated into the traffic lights themselves, which means they can react to traffic conditions by changing their light schedules, and theoretically help re-direct riders to avoid traffic congestion.
BMW and VW see this technology being implemented with the use of heads-up displays and on-dash alerts, with the inter-devise communication working without input from the driver. Using a hive-mind style of information gathering, AKTIV can get a top-level view of what is happening on the roadway, and act to make the most meaningful impact to commuters.
The second system is developed directly with motorcyclists in mind. Since AKTIV communicates vehicle-to-vehicle, a car approaching an intersection knows when another vehicle, like a motorcycle is approaching as well. Able to tell when the two trajectories are set for a collision, or when a driver/rider is not taking the appropriate action for the situation (e.g. yielding the right of way, or stopping for a red light), AKTIV can sound the horn, flash the headlight, or illuminate special LEDs to alert an inattentive driver.
For cars, the system can also apply 30% of the automobile’s braking power, which not only helps reduce the change of an accident, but also alerts the driver to the situation. Considering how many motorcycle accidents are caused by a automobile driver failing to see a motorcycle, this system could have tremendous affects on rider safety.
As vehicles, infrastructure, and drivers become more interconnected with this technology there is a wide-range of benefit that could stem from AKTIV’s implementation. Researchers have been trying the system out here in San Francisco, and judging from California’s congested roads, and manic drivers, we could see AKTIV finding traction with legislatures and municipalities very easily.
For bonus points consider the next logical step AKTIV could take as vehicles move to electric based power trains and more full integrated computer systems.