Last week, Honda announced updates for the 2021 Gold Wing, with the highlights being more powerful speakers and a larger trunk and passenger backrest for the Gold Wing Tour. But there was one new feature the Gold Wing did not receive: adaptive cruise control.
Not for lack of trying, however. Honda has filed multiple patents for including the radar-based technology on the Gold Wing. Designed for soaking up miles in comfort, the ’Wing is an obvious candidate to receive adaptive cruise control, and with the technology now starting to proliferate in motorcycles, it was somewhat of a surprise that the radar technology was not a part of the updates.
There may be a few reasons for that. Chiefly, Honda needs to work out an arrangement with a supplier for the radar sensors, and currently, Bosch is the main brand for motorcycle radar systems. The two companies already have a working relationship (Bosch supplies its radar technology for Honda’s cars), so coming to terms on a deal for Honda’s motorcycles shouldn’t be too difficult.
One possible hurdle may be Kawasaki, which announced in November 2019 that it would be the first Japanese manufacturer to make use of Bosch’s technology “starting in 2021.” The press release didn’t say it explicitly, but the implication is Kawasaki may have secured the rights to be the first among the Japanese brands to use Bosch’s radar systems. Kawasaki hasn’t announced a radar-equipped bike yet (the Ninja H2 SX would be a prime candidate), so it’s possible Honda may have to wait its turn.
We saw similar jockeying this past summer between Ducati and BMW over whether the Multistrada V4 or R1250RT would be the first motorcycle to use Bosch’s radar tech (Ducati claims it won that argument, for those few out there who care and do not work for either brand). KTM will soon follow, with the 2021 1290 Super Adventure S.
Regardless of any potential contracts (or egos) involved, Honda’s recent patents give us an idea on how it plans to apply the technology. The patents suggest Honda may be looking at ways to integrate the radar sensors into the bodywork instead of having them exposed as Ducati, BMW, have chosen. While being an aesthetically pleasing choice, this could create complications, as placing the radar sensor behind plastics (even transparent ones) may affect their accuracy.
In a second patent, Honda illustrates the placement of a rear-facing radar in the trunk of a Gold Wing Tour (GS1 in the drawing below). As Ducati has done with the Multistrada V4, the rear-facing sensor would be used in a warning system for detecting vehicles in the blind spot. What’s interesting about Honda’s patent is that the radar is supplemented by four sonar sensors (GS2 in the drawing).
This is probably a good time to note that the 2021 Gold Wing Tour received a larger trunk. Increasing the storage volume by 22% to 61 liters is a welcome change, but what if Honda also designed the larger case in order to eventually accommodate the new sensors?
Two other patents described how information for the adaptive cruise control system could be displayed on the Gold Wing. You would think the GW’s 7-inch display would do the job, but Honda is looking at other alternatives. One option is to use an existing display area, in this case, the wedge-shaped region above the speedometer, that is currently used for a tire pressure monitor system warning light and left turn indicator.
Alternatively, one patent proposes using the windscreen as a head-up display to show the adaptive cruise control settings, either with a projector or with the shield itself be an electroluminescent display.
The added complexity of a head-up display or supplementary sonar sensors may also explain why Honda isn’t quite ready to introduce radar sensors on the Gold Wing, but we can probably expect the technology eventually. The Africa Twin is another candidate for the radar tech, and we can confirm Honda has patents in the works for blind spot detection on the AT.
Once Honda gets the kinks worked out (and any potential contractual issues get sorted out), we should expect to see Bosch’s radar systems on the Gold Wing or Gold Wing Tour, perhaps as soon as the 2022 model year.
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