The BMW that stops for bikes
May 24, 2011
Technology that aims to prevent a car colliding with a motorcycle gets the nod from riders.
Motorcycle riders have welcomed an announcement from BMW that it is working on technology that will stop a car from accidentally turning in front of oncoming traffic.
The German car maker says it is working on a new type of system, called Turn Left Assistant, which can detect if a vehicle is attempting to make a turn in front of oncoming traffic, including cars trucks and particularly motorcycles, and alert the driver using the head-up display and even brake the car automatically to avoid a collision.
According to Australian motorcycle lobbyist Damien Cognotto, driver inattention to the task of driving is definitely a road safety issue for riders.
One of the most common collisions between cars and motorcycles is when a car turns in front of the oncoming bike, he says.
''Either the car is turning right or doing a U-turn,'' Cognotto says. ''Another type of crash involving both cars and bikes seems to be becoming more common — bikes are hit from behind.''
It's presumed the technology can be adapted for countries, such as Australia, where motorists drive on the left side of the road - where it would become a 'Turn Right' assistant.
According to BMW, once the indicator is switched on, the car's satellite navigation system can fix its position to within a metre, allowing the software to recognise if the car is stopped at a turning lane in an intersection, while a camera detects the painted arrows on the road surface.
The system then uses three laser scanners that can map the area up to 100 metres in front of the car. It will only stop the car at speeds below 10km/h so that its reaction won't be too violent.
A second part of the research involves a BMW R1200 GS motorcycle fitted with a form of car-to-bike communication system that allows the vehicles to share information with each other.
''The car and the motorcycle communicate with one another via the car-to-x interfaces as the motorcycle approaches,'' BMW Group Research and Technology development engineer for the turn assistant program, Udo Rietschel, says.
''The car and motorcycle exchange information on the type of vehicle, its position and speed, as well as dynamic data such as its current steering angle and whether the indicators are activated.''
The car can then calculate if it is likely to collide with the motorcycle if it turns, and warn the driver appropriately.
It's also proactive from the rider's perspective. If the motorcycle's on-board computer thinks the car will attempt to drive in front of it, the headlight increases in intensity, and every available light on the front of the bike lights up to help the rider stand out. If it calculates that the chance of a collision is high, the bike will also sound the horn.
BMW Australia spokeswoman Lucy McLellan says the project is part of BMW's Motorrad motorcycle division ConnectedRide project, which aims to emulate the same safety standards for two-wheel riders as drivers — although it will be at least 2016 before it arrives.
''The motorcycle fatality rate is huge when it comes to Australia,'' McLellan says. ''One of the big things that Motorrad prides itself on is the pioneering of safety technologies.
''I'm certain that is something Australian motorcyclists would want and would be purchasing if it was available.''
BMW motorcycle riders are so safety-conscious, McLellan says, that the company made the decision to drop the base model version of its S1000 RR race track-inspired motorcycle from showrooms three weeks ago after buyers showed they really wanted the more up-market, safer Sport version that includes traction control and race-tuned anti-lock brakes.