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FEMA works to make driver assistance systems safe for motorcycles

A car that looks and often even acts for you; the technology is available, but does that car pay enough attention to motorcyclists?

In a world where it is hard to keep up with the pace of innovation of modern, (semi-)autonomous cars and where several governments are working hard to be seen at the forefront of technological developments, it is important for a motorcyclists’ organization such as FEMA to put on the brakes and ask some relevant questions.

New testing methods needed – Let’s all count to ten and calmly think about whether ‘vulnerable road users’ are not forgotten when everyone seems to want to rely blindly on advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that are designed to make life easier for the car driver. FEMA and Dutch motorcyclists’ associations KNMV and MAG believe that only tighter laws and regulations for cars with advanced driver assistance systems can prevent motorcyclists from (literally) being overlooked. Let there be no misunderstanding: the motorcyclists’ organizations also see the great benefits that technology can bring, especially when it comes to improving road safety, but we want to be convinced that all road users benefit. That is why the joint motorcyclists’ organizations now regularly meet with representatives of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, the Netherlands Vehicle Authority RDW and TNO, the Dutch organisation for applied scientific research.

Talks between the motorcyclists’ organizations and RDW. From left to right: Dolf Willigers (FEMA), Jan Sybren Boersma (RDW), Wim Taal (FEMA) and Arjan Everink (KNMV).

Laws and regulations – During these meetings, the representatives of RDW have indicated that they understand the concerns of motorcyclists and RDW has recently begun a preliminary investigation into the possible dangers advanced driver assistance systems can pose for motorcyclists. RDW agrees with FEMA that the ‘visibility’ of motorcycles, but also of mopeds, scooters and bicycles must be ensured in the further development of advanced driver assistance systems. The first study, which presumably will be completed in the first half of this year, is expected to lead to more targeted research into new testing methods and to laws and regulations that will focus on the safety of riders of two-wheeled vehicles.

Research – Obviously this is an issue that concerns all countries, not just the Netherlands; RDW has therefore approached a number of national and international institutions and research institutes for a possible collaboration. In the first period of the study there will be time for a thorough literature study. FEMA has a very extensive database of research and a lot of knowledge about potential accident situations involving motorcyclists and will therefore be closely involved in the literature study.

On the road – In the meantime, FEMA is not standing still; in the last months we have had in-depth meetings with car manufacturers that have each implemented their own version of assistance systems. In addition, various car manufacturers have offered us the opportunity to experience the electronic assistance systems in their vehicles first hand. We have been a guest at the BMW Group Netherlands, where we drove the 7-series BMW and we were invited by Tesla to test drive their Model S. So far carmakers have fully cooperated with us; they also indicated that the driver assistance systems must be made so reliable that they detect motorcyclists and vulnerable road users without problems.

Written by Wim Taal
Photography by Robert Rood and Wim Taal

FEMA’s Wim Taal and Dolf Willigers had the chance to test a Tesla.