Tomfoolery – The Future Of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

From 30 days once a year to 24/7-365

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Having a month dedicated to the recognition of motorcycling is a wonderful thing (mom gets a single day, we get 30). But I certainly don’t feel any safer because of the effort. Did you know that April is Distracted Driver Awareness Month? I didn’t until I stumbled across the title while researching traffic safety for this editorial. But I certainly didn’t notice any change in people’s driving habits last month, like texting while driving, even though tickets in California for texting while driving begin at $160.

What I do think will actually increase motorcycle safety – specifically curtailing the practice of unobservant motorists turning left in front of motorcycles – is technology, such as Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V), communications technology.

Honda introduced its V2V technology in 2008, and we know BMW has, for years, been honing its V2V communications technology in motorcycles as witnessed in this 2011 video about the company’s ConnectedRide program; the motorcycle version of its ConnectedDrive technology.

BMW Motorrad Connected Ride from MOTOVOGUE on Vimeo

Beginning last year, both BMW and Honda began participating in a V2V safety study at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) to determine how cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles interact using V2V communications technology.

“Two tasks will be conducted in the Safety Pilot Model Deployment Geographic Area as a proof of concept for incorporating motorcycles into the connected vehicle environment. The two tasks are motorcycle communications feasibility testing and motorcycle-to-vehicle performance testing,” says a press release from Cohda Wireless, the cooperative intelligent transport systems hardware manufacturer supplying the V2V communications technology.

V2V, in conjunction with Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) and Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) technologies have the potential to improve traffic safety for everyone; it’s just a matter of when.

“While these are still experimental technologies, they provide a strong indication of the future potential for the kinds of advanced collision sensing and predictive technologies Honda is developing to further reduce the potential for serious accidents, injuries and even fatalities,” said Jim Keller, chief engineer for Honda R&D Americas, Inc.

For motorcyclists, the technology can’t arrive soon enough. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: 1) Motorcycles comprise only 2% of registered vehicles, but account for 5% of traffic fatalities annually. 2) The fatality rate per miles traveled for motorcyclists is 16 times that of car occupants.

As V2V technology integrates into our mobile society, these tragically embarrassing NHTSA stats should tumble. If a motorcycle can, via V2V communication, communicate with an approaching vehicle and ensure it doesn’t turn left until the motorcycle has passed, that’ll eliminate a huge cause of motorcycle accidents. And if V2V communication is constant (every minute of every day), the technology will supercede the responsibility of the car driver to be vigilant of motorcycles, effectively turning Motorcycle Safety Awareness from a month of observance to an unremitting affair.

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  • Old MOron
    • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

      Interesting read. The technology in the article surpasses anything cited in my editorial, but the ethics questioning is compelling. A thought I had is that if/when technology as advanced as these cars that “have greater capacity than we do, higher processor speeds, better sensors, that seems to imply a greater responsibility to make better decisions,” become commonplace, isn’t possible for this technology to be as advanced to also be instilled with a certain set of morals?

      If I were in the hypothetical car crash scenario where I had time to choose between killing myself, or two innocent others in the hope of saving myself, I would choose to save the other two. So, I have no problem with the robot driver choosing the greater good, and sacrificing me in order to not cause harm to others. I would hope most other people feel the same.

      • Old MOron

        Okay, but that’s the easy question. What about programming the robot driver to hit the Chevy instead of the Mercedes? On the one hand, you have a pretty simple cost-saving algorithm. On the other hand, it’s a very cynical valuation of human life and class warfare.

        As for us motorcyclist, would we be sacrificed every time?

        I don’t mean to start a debate or a flame war, or anything like that. I just happened to find the pop-sci article at about the same time I found yours, and I think they are related. Personally, I’m optimistic that if robot drivers can be that good, we shouldn’t have any collisions in the future.

        Of course they won’t get that good overnight. We may well have a period where motorcyclist or less affluent people are sacrificed. That would be wrong in my opinion, but there are lots of things that I consider wrong, that happen anyway.

        • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

          The bourgeoisie have always suffered for the benefit of the rich and powerful and I don’t see that ever changing, regardless the advanced technology of this discussion or any other situation. You’re familiar with the “affluenza defense,” right?

          I was planning to discuss autonomous motorcycling in my next editorial. I might include some of the ethical/moral dilemma presented in your article. Thanks for sharing. If you come across other technology-related articles, I’d enjoy reading them as well.