The reality

Each year on UK roads, around 320 motorcyclists are killed. This number has been relatively stable since 2010. Motorcyclists account for less than 1% of the traffic on UK roads but consistently account for around 20% of the fatalities each year. This over-representation is the result of motorcyclists being roughly 57 times more likely to die than car occupants per mile travelled. Considered among ‘vulnerable road users’, motorcyclists are at greater risk than cyclists and pedestrians combined – for each mile a motorcyclist travels, there is a 0.0001789% chance they will succumb to death or severe injury. How can we improve things for our most vulnerable road users?

The SMMT believes that the overall social and economic benefit of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) will be £51b/year by 2030. It also predicts that ADAS systems will save 2,500 lives by 2030. How many of these will be motorcyclists? Will ADAS systems be widely implemented on motorcycles as well as cars? Will there be enough uptake in the next 12 years to have positive impact?

Depending on the research, between 48-80% of motorcycle accidents are caused by car drivers failing to look properly and see motorcyclists. A statistic anecdotally confirmed by a recent accident involving our colleague’s partner. It is estimated that 40% of vehicles on UK roads will have at least two types of ADAS by 2020, but this covers everything from adaptive cruise control (ACC) to park assist and not necessarily systems that will prevent motorcyclist casualties. The systems currently being widely adopted are unable to prevent an oblivious driver from pulling out in front of a motorcyclist, the source of many two vehicle accidents. If ADAS in cars is not likely to help, what about ADAS for bikes?

Riding a motorcycle involves greater exposure to the surrounding environment than a car, placing significantly increased sensory strain on riders. Anything that can reduce this strain by making riding more comfortable or easier will improve rider awareness and reduce physical fatigue, helping coordination and reaction times. Currently there are several common ARAS (Advanced Rider Assistance Systems) technologies for bikes including ACC, cornering ABS, head-up displays and traction control systems (TCS). These technologies have been fitted to cars for a while but have taken some time to cross over into the ARAS realm. Fortunately, companies like Continental are considering the matter and at EICMA in Milan last year they unveiled a host of ARAS technologies including: Traffic Sign Assist, Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Headlight Assist, Blind Spot Detection and Emergency Brake Assist.

While the entire thrill of riding a motorcycle is due to the fact you are hurtling through the countryside, completely unprotected and exposed to your environment, there is something to be said for ARAS systems. If they can be made to feel unobtrusive and still allow the rider the desired freedom, they will certainly save lives.