Vehicle technology has advanced in recent years, and many safety experts hope as technologies increasingly automate the driving process, accident rates will decline significantly. After all, most collisions are caused by some type of human error. If human decision making is all-but-eliminated from the driving process, the theory is self-driving vehicles will glide seamlessly along and never collide.
Most of the focus is on improving technology for traditional passenger vehicles. However, cars and trucks aren't the only vehicles on the road. There are also technologies being developed which aim to prevent motorcycle accidents. Both Honda and BMW are working on tech features which the automakers believe could significantly reduce the risk of collisions or even eliminate motorcycle crashes altogether.
Although this may all sound good, there are serious questions about whether the reality is going to live up to the hype. There have already been accidents and even fatalities with self-driving vehicles, and it is important to remember technology can malfunction and can be prone to security problems leading to potential hacking.
Drivers shouldn't count on vehicles to save them from auto accidents or motorcycle collisions yet, and even in the future, motorcyclists and drivers of passenger cars will ultimately remain responsible for making safe choices to prevent collisions from occurring.
Road and Track.com reported on Honda's self-balancing technology which is under development. Honda's technology is called Honda Riding Assistance. When it is engaged, the system automatically increases the fork angle and disconnects the front fork's from the motorcycle's handlebars. The effect is to lower the wheelbase. The system will then utilize small steering inputs in order to make certain the motorcycle is able to stay fully balanced on its own. There are no mass-shifting devices or gyroscopes to achieve this effect, which can ensure the motorcycle will not tumble.
Honda hopes the Riding Assistance feature could help to stop bikes from toppling over when traveling at low speed or when stopped at stop signs. However, the technology is currently only included on a concept bike which Honda built for the Consumer Electronics Show. No plans have been announced yet to implement the tech on a bike to be sold for use.
CNN Money reported BMW is working on a similar technology which will prevent a bike from tipping over. However, BMW's tech features under development go much further than Honda's. According to CNN's report, BMW is envisioning a future where motorcycles not only won't tip over but also where motorcycle riders won't need either helmets or padded clothing.
BMW's concept bike, called the Motorrad Vision Next 100, will have self-balancing wheels and will have an "electronic safety cage" to communicate with other cars. It will also have road sensors to make automatic crash avoidance possible. Since the technology should help to avoid collisions, BMW is also working on goggles motorcyclists will wear when they don't need helmets. The goggles will prevent bugs and debris from getting into the rider's eyes, will shield him from the wind, and will provide information he needs including alerting him to an emergency.
It remains to be seen if these concept bikes will perform as promised, and it could be a long time until motorcyclists are able to find out. Motorcycle riders should follow best practices for safety to avoid crashes now, and should not necessarily count on these technologies coming to the market and making them safer any time soon.