The Future of Motorcycle Safety

As part of its 100th anniversary, BMW recently released a concept motorcycle that aims to take safe and responsible riding out of the hands of bikers. The company claims its motorcycle will keep riders so well protected that helmets and protective clothing will become obsolete in the distant future.

The Motorrad Vision Next 100 features self-balancing wheels, which eliminate the need for a kickstand, flexible frame for a smoother ride, electric motor, and an electronic safety cage, similar to the system within autonomous vehicles, such as the Tesla. The ESC helps the rider avoid crashes by communicating with other vehicles and giving live feedback through a visor, which would be worn instead of a helmet. The rider can control what is displayed on the visor and is alerted if other vehicles or objects create potentially dangerous obstacles.

Because the Motorrad Vision Next 100 is a concept bike, it remains unclear whether all the features will someday be available or if they are as safe as BMW claims. However, the company’s release comes at a time when safety is at the forefront of automotive technology. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association 3,700 people die in road collisions each year. In 2015, 4,976 bikers died in crashes nationwide and in Missouri 90 people lost their lives in motorcycle accidents.

In response to such grim statistics, the Toyota Research Institute’s Chief Technology Officer James Kuffer announced the automotive giant’s latest goal is zero traffic deaths in the United States. Volvo has made a similar pledge: no one will die in its cars by the year 2020.

Autonomous cars may make driving safer by eliminating the number one cause of crashes and fatalities: human error. Yet, it only takes one tech glitch to cause a dangerous situation as was seen in the Florida Tesla Crash. In this case, a truck with a trailer merged in front of a man riding in a Tesla. The car’s ESC was unable to differentiate between the edge of the trailer and the sky’s horizon and crashed into the back of the trailer, killing the occupant.

It’s difficult to determine if BMW’s concept bike will be accepted by the motorcycle community, which values autonomy, freedom, and independence, and may not translate to an autonomous bike. If anything, BMW’s motorcycle makes safety a public forum, which can influence how someone approaches his next ride.

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