Bikers and technology – making the right connections?

Blog post posted on 15/01/19 |

I read a lot about autonomous and connected cars every day in my work but very little about how these technologies could help improve motorcycling safety.  This week however, I have come across two reports which suggest great potential if we can get researchers, bike manufacturers and riders to work together to embrace new technology.

The first report from Sweden suggest that the number of motorcycle accidents where riders crashed while braking has been halved since 2015.  These figures come from an insurance company called ‘Svedea’ and have been welcomed by the Swedish Motorcyclists’ Association SMC as evidence of the positive effects of Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS).  They became mandatory for all motorcycles above 126cc sold in Europe in 2016.  SMC has worked assiduously “to inform about the benefits of ABS and arranged advanced training for riders on the correct braking techniques”.

They firmly believe that it has now been proven that it has become safer to ride a motorcycle with ABS than without. The article however, also highlighted a comment from ‘Svedea’ that it is still more difficult to collect information regarding safety equipment, such as ABS and traction control, for motorcycles than for cars.  This means that while the overall benefits seem clear they are yet to offer insurance discounts for ABS fitted bikes in Sweden – you win some/you lose some!!

My colleague Bert Morris then sent me a major report for the USA Department of Transport on the potential for technology to save the lives of those on two wheels.  The top technology they recommend is ABS but also the need to look at the BMI (as opposed to HMI).  That’s ‘Biker Machine Interface’ and it’s clearly even more important than ‘Human Machine Interface’ that we know so much about in cars.  New tech must enhance the rider experience and not add to distraction. 

The report is a big read but in essence it is calling for more engagement with the biker community to get them involved in research and to encourage them to embrace new technology.  There could certainly be a role here for IAM RoadSmart and its member to help riders give useful feedback to research institutions.  The reports also warns about big data and security concerns which also figure highly in car drivers worries for the future.  One of the advantages of more ‘connected bikes’ could be the ability to increase safety, enhance mobility, and collect more robust data on motorcycle usage (speeds, volumes, etc.) and safety.  It’s really good to see the positive role that motorcycling and new technology can play in future mobility solutions getting into the mainstream.

You can find the report here

By Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research