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Car versus motorcycle: new digital safety features tested

Digital connectivity between motorcycles, cars and infrastructure is entering a new phase. Recently FEMA joined a test day on the German Lausitzring track.

On 14 and 15 September 2023 stakeholders from motorcycle- and car industry, road safety- and research institutions and users’ organisations got the opportunity to see with their own eyes and experience themselves how the new safety features that are developed by the Connected Motorcycle Consortium and its member’s work. FEMA was invited to participate in these demo days.

The Connected Motorcycle Consortium (CMC) was founded in 2016 when BMW Motorrad, Honda and Yamaha agreed upon the need to further enhance motorcycle/scooter safety by the means of C-ITS. Since then, a range of manufacturers, suppliers and research institutes joined forces to collaborate. FEMA decided in 2020 to become a supporting member. In the past, CMC has several times presented some progress on their website but until now we had to do with written information and some publicity videos.

On a sunny Lausitzring in Germany we were first informed about the new developments, the ideas behind certain choices and the scientific foundations behind the applications. Most important is to realize that the base of the applications is digital connectivity (C-ITS) between the motorcycle, cars and infrastructure. The vehicles send out signals that are picked up and processed by the infrastructure (and forwarded to) the receiving vehicles, which could either be a car or a motorcycle.

CMC had prepared nine use cases that were demonstrated on the Lausitzring, where the spectators were able to see everything well from an elevated terrace. Here we could see (and sometimes hear) how the system intervened when a car driver overlooked an coming motorcyclist when turning, or a slower riding motorcyclist in front of him, a crossing motorcyclist who was hidden by a wall or another vehicle, or warned the motorcyclist when a car driver was opening his door, or was just standing still, when an emergency vehicle approached, et cetera. Also, the working of ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) was shown in avoiding crashes with motorcycles. These systems are not based on digital communication, but on sensors (camera, radar, lidar) on the car.

After being able to see the working of the systems from a small distance, the participants had the opportunity to experience the working themselves as passenger in one of the test cars. When it considered ADAS, these were sometimes normal production cars that are already equipped with ADAS and applications that communicate with motorcycles that are fitted with senders. I experienced how the car driver was warned for a motorcyclist that was hidden from the car by a big van, both riding and standing still. Also for a motorcycle that was standing on the edge of the road (like you do with a breakdown). All not very spectacular, but very useful in daily traffic situations.

The most spectacular thing is that these applications not only already exist, be it mainly still in the test phase, but also that they can be retrofitted to existing motorcycles. The unit I saw had about the size of a packet of cigarettes and can be fitted under the saddle or another suitable place on the motorcycle. So we do not need to trade in our motorcycles to get some extra safety. The machine-to-rider communication might be a bit of an issue for older bikes that do not have digital dashboards (by the way, the preferred way of warning the rider is with flashing lamps on the mirrors, as this gives the best combination of reliability, visibility and fast reaction by the rider).

Written by Dolf Willigers

Photographs courtesy of CMC

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