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Piaggio develops on-bike radar

On-bike radar is developing fast as a means of keeping riders safe from cars with driver-assist features, and the next generation of self-driving cars. BMW, Triumph, Ducati, KTM and Kawasaki already offer a simple form of on-bike radar, but Piaggio has just unveiled a more powerful ‘4G’ system.

The Law Commission – whose job is to check our laws are up to date and make recommendations for change – recently proposed an Automated Vehicle Act, which make the manufacturer, rather than the ‘driver,’ of a self-driving car accountable for accidents. There is evidence that advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) have more difficulty detecting small vehicles such as motorcycles (or for that matter, cyclists or pedestrians) than bigger ones. The technology is improving, and Euro NCAP (the European New Car Assessment Programme) has introduced new tests for ADAS recognition of bikes.

On-bike radar is an essential part of a motorcycle’s ‘defence’ and current system use passive radar which bounces the signal back to the car warning it where the bike is. Piaggio’s system uses active radar, something already used on boats. Instead of just reflecting the radar waves back, this amplifies them, making it more like that the car will ‘see’ the motorcycle. It would be small enough to mount inside the headlight and rear light, and an additional sensor on each side of the bike would give 360-degree protection.

The Piaggio system isn’t yet available on a bike – a patent was applied for in January 2022 – but it points towards the way this technology is likely to develop.

“The BMF has been aware of inter vehicle, automated, warning systems for some years, as part of the development of C-ITS [Co-operative Intelligent Transport Systems]. We have been very wary as a result of accidents and video evidence of the failure to detect other road users, like us. While this development, of active systems, sounds great, it adds yet another deskilling layer of tech, to reinforce the shocking lack of awareness of the world, outside their little cocoons, that many drivers display. How soon will ‘I’m sorry mate, I didn’t see you’ be replaced by ‘I’m sorry mate, my car didn’t see you’? Making manufacturers responsible for the defects of their systems, as suggested by the Law Commission, is all well and good, but users should still face the ultimate responsibility for their vehicles. If someone dies as a result of failure, moral culpability lies with the person who chose to use the system.” Said BMF Chair Jim Freeman.

Words by Peter Henshaw

Top images courtesy of Piaggio