You are here
Home > Opinion pieces > Intelligent Transportation Systems and motorcycles: threat or opportunity?

Intelligent Transportation Systems and motorcycles: threat or opportunity?

Food for thought by Dolf Willigers who looked into the consequences Intelligent Transportation Systems could have for motorcyclists.

You can hardly have missed the fact that ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems) nowadays get a lot of attention: in the Netherlands a test with cars that independently follow eachother on the highway on 13th of november 2013, an avalanche of reports from Brussels on the implementation of ITS to secure mobility in the future, also in the Netherlands the ‘Brabant-in-car’ program to improve traffic flow on the A67 near Eindhoven, experiments with chimes on the radio when an ambulance with urgent transport is nearby, and so on. Our guest columnist in the february 2014 Mag-a-zine, FEMA’s Secretary General Aline Delhaye, wrote about ITS. It is remarkable that all projects revolve around cars and the motorcycle doesn’t get mentioned at all. Except as an object, which is detected by a car, like bicycles, pedestrians and crossing rabbits. Enough reason for us (MAG Netherlands) to seek contact with the people behind all this: to hear what is hanging over our heads, and let them know that we are there.

In December 2013 I met Herm Verbeek, until January 1, Program Manager of Smart Mobility AutomotiveNL , the joint venture of the Dutch automotive industry. When you look into the list of participants of AutomotiveNL you will understand why in the Dutch ITS projects the motorcycle has no role. This is also confirmed immediately by Verbeek, who is a motorcyclist himself. Having noted this the question naturally arises what ITS is and how it affects us: is it really a threat to the rider as many think, or does it deliver benefits for us? To create some clarity on this Verbeek explains that you can divide ITS into three categories.

Three categories
1. Advisory systems. These are tools for traffic situations, which are (may) not yet be visible to the driver, to inform him possibly advice about these situations. Techniques used are ordinary cameras (e.g. for following traffic and/or traffic situations in front of the vehicle) , infrared cameras, Wi-Fi -p (an advanced form of Wi-Fi with a range of 500 to 1000 meters, one of the embodiments of DSRC , Dedicated Short Range Communication) , radar etc. These techniques can be combined with image processing software, with which registered objects, vehicles or creatures are also referred to as such. There are applications with this technique already been released. These systems do not engage in any way, they only give signals to the driver who will have to take any necessary action himself. One  example of an already widely used system is a camera that signals following traffic or traffic in the blind spot and warns the driver with an audible or visual signal when it wants to change lanes. Verbeek mentions as a possible future application of DSRC  the option to warn of motorcyclists driving by between the rows of cars at traffic stows.

2. Corrective (on the driving task interfering) systems. These are systems in which the systems mentioned above are combined with control technology. Examples include vehicles with autonomous  braking actions when a collision is imminent, lane departure warning systems that not only warn when crossing a road marking, but actually perform a steering correction. For motorcycles are also examples: first the classical ABS systems, adjusting the braking force when one or more wheels threaten to block. Recently a system has been developed by Bosch, in cooperation with KTM, in which the braking force is influenced not only by sensors at the wheels, but also wherein the angle of inclination of the motorcycle is taken into account in the braking force dosage.

3. Self-managed vehicles: these completely or partially take control from the hands of the driver. Technically this is already possible and on experiment is already working. The main limitation here these days is the law.

4. Across these three areas mentioned you also have the so-called cooperative mobility where these techniques are combined with communication between vehicles and between vehicles and roadside stations or back offices (data centres , control centres , etc.).

The techniques mentioned under 1 and 2 are in the automotive world – and as concerns ABS also in the motorcycle world – already fairly well established, although not all of them commonly used. They are also fairly standardized. The bulk of these techniques can be used for motorcycles. The devices are – or are in the short term – so small that on or built not have to be the problem with a motorcycle. Whether this is desirable from the perspective of experience, and/or safety is verse two, but some of these systems indeed benefit for motorcyclists. According to Herm Verbeek it is anyway not smart to ignore them. In particular, the techniques listed in category 3 may be threatening, but again it depends on how they are applied and how the motorcycle and its specificity in the design and in the regulations is included. The latter we can influence by sitting at the table with the developers of technology and regulatory as much as possible. In this light, you must see the plea of Aline Delhaye in the february 2014 Mag-a-zine and the organizing by FEMA of the European Motorcyclists’ Forum on ITS in early march of 2014. Verbeek himself sees the biggest danger for us when other road users, who are provided with resources, assume that others also have and tune their behaviour on that. As an example he mentions the motorist, who relies on the technique to break on time in an emergency situation and therefore keeps to little distance to his predecessor.

ITS and motorcycle
The role of the motorcycle in the above techniques can be active (transmitting / receiving) and passive (the engine is perceived as an object without communicating itself). Both Herm Verbeek as myself are not familiar with ongoing projects working on a motorcycle that play an active role, thus emitting signals. The European Watch-Over project from january 2006 to december 2008 did result to techniques and recommendations, but these are as far as I know not picked up by manufacturers (yet). There have been projects where the motorcycle has a passive role, (Protector, Save –U, again Watch-Over and Safe Rider). Initiatives in the spectre of technological developments in the field of (motorcycle) manufacturers or OEMs (the suppliers) are not currently expected, though the EU program Horizon2020 might lead to a change of course here. Part of this program is designed to encourage the development of techniques which have to ensure that European maintains a leading role in science and to ensure we are able to stay mobile in future, with regards to the environment. To that goal, in terms of the European Commission: techniques will to have to be developed to create “Smart, Green and Integrated Transport”. As it stands innovations will (should) come from the automotive manufacturers and their suppliers and concerning motorcycles mainly from manufacturers of navigation devices such as TomTom.

To see or not to see
Another development is the way in which the information is presented to the driver. A new way is the provision of metered information: the driver gets only offered the information that he needs at that time, taking into account road and traffic conditions. This is to ensure that there is an abundance of information created and / or the driver no longer accrues by recording and processing all digital information recording and processing of data on the road.

We go back to the question at the beginning of this article: is ITS a threat to us or not? That question has no simple answer. Some ITS applications are no doubt safety – and comfort-enhancing, even for the motorcyclist. In other applications, it might be possible to establish that there is no place for the rider between the cars packed with electronics. Additional aspects here are the relatively high costs, which is already playing a part in the ABS on lighter engines, and the longer lifespan of the motorcycle: in the current Dutch motorcycle park 25 % is between 25 and 40 years old. My conclusion is that in this area a there is still some work to be done for MAG Netherlands and the riders’ rights organisations in other countries .

Written by Dolf Willigers , courtesy of Herm Verbeek