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.
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.