Ride Vision Commentary: Self-Driving Cars & Their Impact on Motorcycle Safety

We recently read an article released about autonomous cars and their impacts on motorcycles

Being riders, engineers, and technology nerds in general — it got sent around the office almost immediately… and while we were impressed by the dedication (and research) this author put in, we believe there are a few crucial points we want to add when it comes to the true future of motorcycling safety. These are our thoughts:

1. Infant Tech 

Image Credit: Metamorworks, Getty Images 

Don’t get us wrong, while the idea of a future where we all zip around in self-driving vehicles while drinking coffee or catching a pre-work nap is enticing even to the motorcycling-obsessed Ride Vision staff, it’s likely much farther away than we think. 

Many advancements have been made in recent years, but as recently as 2019 even the European Automobile Association has admitted that the latest self-driving cars lack the ability and technology to safely recognize motorcycles and their movements:

“The systems work quite well in some situations, such as detecting larger objects, with a defined or standardized shape, such as cars, trucks, or traffic signs. However, the detection of smaller dynamic objects presents challenges to sensors and algorithms, just as it presents challenges to human perception.” 

And according to a 2019 Business Insider Report

“Carmakers and tech companies are very heavily focused on the context of driverless technologies… It is the future. But, as many have begun to admit publicly, that future is further away than anybody has realistically considered, to date. We as humans are really good at predicting the future, we’re not so good at the timelines. 

The timeline to driverless technology changing how (we) live and move is probably in the order of several decades, if not further away.”

While it’s true that autonomous driving technology has come a long way since the Netherlands 2016 study — it still has a long way to go and a LOT of data to collect before it could be considered even remotely viable on the road.

2. Motorcycles are the Constant 

Image Credit: Wiki Motorcycling 

In the mathematical equation of global roadway users, motorcyclists are the constant. From Bangladesh to Santa Barbara and Harley-Davidson to Honda Sprees — nothing will ever take the 2 wheel-wheeled population off the road. 

There are over 700 million motorcyclists in the world, roughly 60% of which are in the Asia Pacific and Southern/Eastern Asia regions. In developing countries motorcycles aren’t a luxury, but an essential part of everyday life. 

Even in wealthier areas, motorcycles are non-negotiable. Try telling the next rider you see to hang up their helmet because autonomous cars need time to develop. We’ll wait for you to get out of the hospital after being “convinced otherwise.”  

So we know for a fact that self-driving cars are on the horizon, and we know that nothing will stop motorcycles from being on the road, the question then becomes how to outfit motorcycles for detecting and avoiding cars when they pose a threat (autonomous or otherwise). 

Pictured: Ride Vision 1 Overtake Alert 

This is the reason we founded Ride Vision. We know that no matter what tech develops in the world or what safety regulations are passed, motorcyclists will still be vulnerable. As riders we will most likely always have the burden of collision prevention and avoidance. The Ride Vision 1 system was developed to help lighten that burden by providing motorcyclists with advanced, real-time warning of potential collision threats, only in critical situations.  

3. Limited Accessibility 

Image Credit: SEJ

For the most part, any advanced tech is very expensive. Whether it’s an iPhone 12 or a Ducati Miltistrada V4s, people can expect to pay top dollar for new tech. 

This clashes with the fact that a major part of the motorcycle riding population chooses two-wheels because of its economic convenience. 

Motorcycles are the modern-day workhorses of the world, and they’re literally a lifeline in areas like India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and China. Even in North America and Europe, a major portion of motorcycles is used as an inexpensive transportation option.

Purchasing a safety-enhanced motorcycle like the Multistrada V4s, or bringing in current rides for costly AI-compliant modifications just isn’t a viable option for the majority of motorcycle owners in the world — regardless of what legislation might be passed.  

Pictured: Ride Vision 1 collision-alert indicators 

At Ride Vision we believe tech companies should be focusing instead on cost-effective aftermarket and OEM products that prevent collisions for all motorcycle makes and models.

Ride Vision 1 was created with just that concept in mind, with cross-model compatibility, and most purchase and installation options costing less than a new set of tires! Additionally, in the future we’re working to have Ride Vision as a pre-included factory feature or affordable option on standard motorcycle models. The means that riders would be able to enjoy the life-saving benefits of a collision prevention system, without the unattainable cost of radar technology. 

4. Limited Time 

Image Credit: Car and Driver, “Self-Driving Cars Are Taking Longer to Build Than Everyone Thought,” 2020

Every year hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists are involved in collisions worldwide, and unfortunately, there isn’t a high likelihood that autonomous driving tech will help to reduce those numbers any time soon. 

Even if deep learning algorithms are improved, sensor or transponder installation is enforced, IoT services become mainstream, and autonomous AI is put into production for cars — any autonomous driving regulations will then also have to pass through the country’s local and national legislation and likely go through an implementation system. This process alone can take years, and that’s on top of any potential infrastructure or tech overhauls needed too.

The bottom line? Motorcyclists don’t have the luxury of waiting.  

Now more than ever the riders are at risk on the road. Distracted driving is quickly becoming a leading cause of motorcycle accidents, which only adds to numerous other risks of the road that riders face. 

The solution here, at least for now, isn’t to wait for autonomous technology to save or protect us as riders. Instead, we need to be doing everything we can to increase our skill, safety, and ability to predict when a driver may or may not pose a threat. 

5. Human Error Still Applies

Image Credit: C&D, IHHS Study: “Autonomous Cars Won’t Avoid Majority of Vehicle Crashes,” 2020

Like most tech developments, public intrigue has outrun product capabilities when it comes to self-driving cars. We all want cars to be to the point where they make up for human error and exceed human skill, but as we’ve stated before the tech is just not there yet, no matter how badly we want it to be. 

So where are we really? Let’s look at the breakdown: 

  • Level 1, Driver Assistance: The vehicle is able to control steering or braking, but not both at the same time. 
  • Level 2, Partial Automation: The car can assist with steering and braking simultaneously, but you still need to oversee all operations. Both Tesla’s Autopilot and General Motors’ Super Cruise are examples of this. 
  • Level 3, Conditional Automation: The car could handle most aspects of driving under certain circumstances, and the driver can temporarily take their eyes off the road. 
  • Level 4, High Automation: Given the right conditions, the car can take full control. 
  • Level 5, Full Automation: This is the hypothetical technology in which the car drives you, there are no rider inputs, and there isn’t even a steering wheel.

Right now, most experts would agree that we’re between Level 2 and Level 3 when it comes to self-driving car tech. Unfortunately though, even as recently as 2021 we’re discovering the release of this level of autonomation can prove to be dangerous

Even when we do arrive at Level 5, it may not help to the extent we thought it would. According to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) autonomous cars will struggle to prevent ⅔ of all accidents on road. According to IIHS Research Scientist Alexandra Mueller, lead author of the study: 

“Building self-driving cars that drive as well as people do is a big challenge in itself, but they’d actually need to be better than that to deliver on the promises we’ve all heard.”

So what can motorcyclists do? 

The same thing we’ve been doing since the advent of 2-wheeled transport: trying our best to be safe. This involves staying up to date on crucial training, investing in quality gear, making smart riding decisions, and buying technology that help us to avoid potential collision hazards. 

Our Final Thoughts: At Ride Vision we are extremely invested in both the future of motorcycling and the future of motorcycle technology. 

And while we deeply hope autonomous driving technology will save lives and prevent collisions in the future, the data seems to be clear that motorcyclists will have to be their own best advocates for safety now and well into the foreseeable future. 

Pictured: Ride Vision Collision Aversion Technology (CAT)  

Ride Vision is a motorcycle camera and alert system that any rider can purchase to fit onto their 2/3-wheeled vehicle. This is not an autonomous tech, but what we believe to be the best blend of AI and rider control. Riders are alerted to collision threats around them in real-time, and both visual and performance ride data is collected for rider use. 

We believe that every rider deserves to come home safe after every ride, and it’s our mission to help develop the technology to make that dream a reality and save riders’ lives.

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