Our former-overlords from across the pond have begun a new study on installing driving aids to motorcycles that would increase the safety of riding on two-wheels. In the research that is being carried out at Mira (formerly the Motor Industry Research Association), the UK is studying whether having devices that alert the rider to speed limits, road conditions, tightness on road bends, and possibly even collisions with other vehicles (not unlike the system currently being developed by BMW & Volkswagen) would benefit motorcyclists like it has car drivers. Currently outfitting a Yamaha Super Ténéré and a Triumph Sprint with the electrical packages, researchers at Mira say the safety system could be available in as early as 18 to 24 months if the studies are successful.
Called Saferider, the electrical safety package is a part of an ongoing body of work thats includes Mira, Yamaha, Porsche Engineering, Fema, and others, and is also a part of the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme. At the heart of Saferider is a bevy of electronics that includes laser scanners, haptic handles and gloves, a vibrating seat, lights, smart helmet-cameras, radar, and a slew of electronics that decipher the input from these devices and alert the rider.
Some of what Saferider is doing seems fairly obvious, like its speed limit alerts, which take the bike’s location via GPS, corresponds it to known posted roadway speed limits, and alerts the rider if they are speeding. However, some of the technology Saferider is bringing forward is rather intriguing, namely its road tightness awareness.
Again using GPS data, Saferider plots where a rider is in relation to an upcoming turn, and then using analysis of how that part of the road is shaped, along with data relayed by other riders, Saferider estimates a safe entry speed for the turn. Of course we imagine sharing this sort of information with a “spirited” rider will have the opposite affect of what’s being desired, but still the technology behind the innovation is intriguing.
For us Saferider seems like an interesting piece of research being conducted by Mira, but also seems like an electronic remedy to an otherwise humanly-base problem. Many of the issues Saferider aims to address come to down compensating for a rider’s imprudent or improper riding decisions. For instance the radar-powered blind spot alert seems almost laughable, considering the almost unimpeded view riders have of what’s behind them, if they actually turn their head (we won’t get into why a proper fitting helmet shouldn’t reduce a rider’s peripheral vision as the study suggests).
For the UK though, motorcycle accidents are a growing trend, and account for 22% of the nation’s roadway fatalities. The question that doesn’t seem to be asked though is what percentage of all accidents involve motorcycles, and whether or not those incidents could have been prevented with systems like the ones Saferider is hoping to bring to market.
Despite our criticism, we’re still big fans of any electronics package that alerts cars and motorcyclists about the possibility of the two colliding, that part of Saferider’s research, along with BMW & VW’s similar foray into the subject, should be immensely helpful in increasing motorcyclist safety, and for that we welcome our two-wheel coddling overlords.