The picture shows a motorcyclist swerving to avoid a car.
Mobility

Safer riding: assistance systems help take the strain out of motorcycling

8 minutes

Bosch’s radar-based assistance systems monitor a rider’s surroundings and automatically keep the bike at a safe distance from vehicles in front. We asked the motorcycling journalist Kentaro Sagawa to put these new systems to the test.

Safer, yes. But what about fun?

A worm’s eye view of the motorcycle journalist Kentaro Sagawa in motorcycle gear.
The motorcycle journalist and riding instructor Kentaro Sagawa is well acquainted with the challenges of road traffic.

Advanced rider assistance systems (ARAS) mean that motorcyclists can now feel safer in the saddle. These electronic, radar-based aids warn about hazards such as a vehicle approaching in the rider’s blind spot or an imminent frontal collision. Among the systems included here is ACC adaptive cruise control, which can automatically adjust the bike’s speed to maintain a safe following distance. It’s clear that such systems offer huge benefits in everyday road traffic, but ardent motorcyclists might well ask whether this just spoils their fun. To find out, the motorcycle journalist Kentaro Sagawa test-rode a bike fitted with the latest assistance systems. He shares his impressions in the video below.

“I would never have thought that such systems could be so helpful.”

Kentaro Sagawa, motorcycle journalist

Sensors monitor the bike’s surroundings

Two motorcyclists from behind.
Sagawa is not only a journalist, he also runs a motorcycle training school in Tokyo.

Alongside his job as a journalist, Kentaro Sagawa also runs a motorcycle training school in Tokyo. “Always keep a close eye on what other road users are doing” is one of his golden rules for motorcycle novices. But he’s also well aware of how difficult this is: “There’s always the danger of a vehicle appearing out of your blind spot.” Bosch engineers have now come up with a solution. The blind spot detection function provides motorcyclists with an extra eye.

A warning signal on the display of a test motorcycle.
The warning signals are shown on the test motorcycle’s display: even for the experienced motorcyclist Sagawa, the electronic support is a boon.

This is how it works: two radar sensors — one at the front, one at the rear — scan the motorcycle’s surroundings. If the rear radar sensor detects a vehicle in the rider’s blind spot, a warning automatically appears — in the rear-view mirror, say. If the front radar sensor detects that the motorcycle is getting too close to the vehicle in front, a warning will also be displayed. If the rider still doesn’t react, the system can warn the rider by automatically activating a series of short brake jerks.

Where the core components of ARAS are installed

A test motorcycle with labels showing the core components of the assistance and safety systems: rear radar sensor, motorcycle stability control, engine control unit, inertial measurement unit, and front radar sensor.
Many useful helpers: the advanced rider assistance systems are a boon for riders.
A picture of a test motorcycle showing the position of the inertial measurement unit. Next to it the text: “Inertial measurement unit — checks acceleration and angular velocity nearly 100 times a second.”
Roughly 100 times a second, the inertial measurement unit gages acceleration and angular velocity: how fast the angular position or orientation of the machine changes with time. This allows any electronic interventions to be adapted to the actual situation, preventing the bike from skidding or the rear wheel from lifting up during braking.
A picture of a test vehicle showing the position of the motorcycle stability control (MSC). Next to it the text: “Motorcycle stability control — helps the rider accelerate and brake in various situations.”
The MSC works together with the inertial measurement unit to assist dynamic acceleration, regulate braking force, and support riders, even in bends.
A test motorcycle with a radar sensor located at the rear. Next to it is the text: “Radar sensors monitor the motorcycle’s surroundings.”
Thanks to the rear radar sensor, riders can be warned about vehicles in their blind spot, and change lanes safely. The front radar sensor detects moving objects at a distance of up to 160 meters ahead of the bike. It is therefore an essential part of both the adaptive cruise control and the forward collision warning function.

The forward collision warning function is permanently on. However, riders can use a switch on the handlebars to activate or deactivate the adaptive cruise control. Especially when there is a lot of traffic about, the safety systems take the strain off the rider, automatically regulating speed and maintaining a predefined distance to the vehicle in front. Adaptive cruise control is the result of various systems interacting in a flash: if the front radar detects that the motorcycle is getting too close to the vehicle ahead, it instructs the engine control unit and motorcycle stability control to decelerate.

MSC motorcycle stability control, one of the core components of ARAS, is itself an innovative two-wheeler technology. MSC supports riders both on straight stretches of road and in bends. Here, sensors monitor parameters such as lean angle and front- and rear-wheel speed, and the inertial measurement unit, a part of MSC, analyzes acceleration and angular velocity nearly 100 times per second. By analyzing these parameters, braking and acceleration force are electronically adjusted to the actual situation, thereby preventing the bike from skidding or the rear wheel from lifting up during braking.

How motorcycle ABS shed the pounds

Two variants of motorcycle ABS: on the left, the first generation from 1995, and on the right, the latest generation from 2016. The latest generation weighs 450 grams, one-tenth of the first generation, which weighed 4500 grams.
The latest generation of Bosch motorcycle ABS is just one-tenth of the weight of the first one. This reduced weight makes it simple to install in smaller motorcycles as well.

This extremely complex process occurs in the blink of an eye. To a great extent, this effective combination of radar sensors and MSC is the result of Bosch’s vast experience and know-how. It was back in 1978 that Bosch developed the first ever production-ready ABS for automobiles. This was followed up in 1995 with an ABS unit for motorcycles. It weighed in at 4.5 kilograms — compared to just 450 grams for the latest unit.

As of the last two product generations, Bosch has shifted to tailoring ABS units to the requirements of motorcycles rather than simply adapting the technology used for cars. Here, too, the facts speak for themselves: according to a study by Bosch, around one-quarter of all motorized two-wheeler accidents resulting in injury could be avoided if all motorcycles were equipped with ABS. More and more countries are therefore making it mandatory.

“Motorcyclists carry a lot of responsibility — both for themselves and for others. Safety systems do not absolve them of this, but they do provide vital backup for human capabilities in critical situations.”

Kentaro Sagawa, motorcycle journalist

Vision zero: riding toward a safer future

Kentaro Sagawa in profile. A motorcycle is parked behind him.

Innovations such as the Bosch advanced rider assistance systems play a crucial role in what the company calls its “vision zero”: the goal of eradicating road fatalities. Manufacturers such as Ducati, KTM, and Kawasaki will soon be installing advanced rider assistance systems in their motorcycles. With the motorcycle market growing, the importance of such technology can only increase. According to a study by the automotive research company FOURIN, global production of two-wheelers will rise from its 2018 level by more than 13 percent by 2030.

By intelligently connecting the sensors installed in MSC, Bosch is already able to offer motorcyclists a further aid: the inertial measurement unit can be connected to Help Connect, a smartphone app-based emergency assistance system. Featuring an algorithm that draws on accident research data, the system is able to automatically detect a crash. In such an event, it transmits GPS data to the Bosch Service Center, which then provides the coordinates of the scene of the accident. “That’s definitely the way forward,” Kentaro Sagawa says. “When you’re riding a bike, you have a lot of responsibility – both for yourself and for others.”

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