Are Motorbikes Safe From Automated Cars?

Thu 29th Aug 2019

A new study has highlighted a number of concerns over automated cars and the roads they share with motorcycles.

The European motorcycle industry group ACEM has published the paper entitled ‘How will automated cars impact motorcycle safety?’ with the focus on ensuring that advanced driver assistance systems can correctly identify all road users, including motorcycles, and not just pedestrians and other cars.

The worry for ACEM is that driver assist is good at detecting large objects, but not so clever when it comes to smaller objects on the road, such as motorbikes.

Adaptive cruise control systems are already a key feature of many modern cars, yet a Dutch study cited in the report found that some adaptive cruise control systems failed to detect and match speed with motorcycles ahead of them.

"Motorcyclists are the only road users who share all kinds of road and traffic environment conditions, including full velocity range, with cars. This creates a major safety challenge.

"In some cases," says the ACEM paper, "modern cars do not have robust enough equipment to detect motorcycles. Several accidents in Europe and the US with cars 'on autopilot' indicate that some cars failed to detect motorcycles in all situations. Today, in some driver handbooks, one can find statements such as 'the system may not detect small vehicles like motorcycles,' which is simply not acceptable from a safety point of view."

The paper goes on to suggest that constructive discussion between car manufacturers and motorcycle groups would lead to a safer future for all.

“In the future, increasing levels of automation in passenger cars will shift the task of dynamic driving further and further away from the driver and towards the vehicle itself. The technology used should be reliable and has to compensate for ‘taking the human driver out of the loop’. Therefore, the development of automated assistance systems will have to be designed and validated as motorcycle compatible covering all the requirements, from situation recognition through to execution of manoeuvres.”