self driving radar

  • The European Association of Motorcycle Manufacturers (EAMM) published a report saying that the current technology in automated cars “failed to detect motorcycles.”

  • They found accidents that happened due to the car radars not picking up the bikes.

  • Certain manufacturers are making their bikes more visible to radar.

The European Association of Motorcycle Manufacturers (EAMM) published a report saying that the current technology in automated cars “failed to detect motorcycles.”

The alarming report was made after the association found that accidents in Europe and US on “autopilot” failed to locate a motorcycle in all situations.

Before continuing, let us see what it means by “automated cars.” Certain cars (especially the luxury ones) are fitted with radars to detect objects around it, especially in their blindspots besides the vehicles in front and behind them. An expended function is self-drive, which means the driver takes his hands and feet of the pedals. The car will move in a set speed and turn through long radius corners all by itself. When the radar detects an object in front, the control unit will apply the brakes to slow down or stop altogether.

Remote sensing system on an autonomous car – Graphic credit

It’s supposed to make driving safer. But it may not be safe for bikes.

There are two aspects that confuse automated driving systems.

  1. Motorcycles have small cross sections, hence presenting very low visibility compared to cars and trucks. This is why we turn on our lights in daytime.
  2. Motorcycles are much more agile and can change directions quickly. Notice how we can move a couple of meters to either side when we come to stop at traffic lights? (Okay some don’t stop at the red light, but that’s a different matter.)

We’ll give you another example. Presenting a small cross section to radars is exactly what a stealth fighter does. It’s designed to deflect radar waves away from itself so that there’s only a small return signature (some say the cross-section equivalent to that of a bird) to the receiving radar. (Stealth fighters also use radar absorbing material on their outer skins, by the way.) Consequently, radar operators couldn’t see the plane on their scopes.

The EAMM deduced that modern cars don’t have reliable enough equipment to detect bikes. In fact, they also highlighted such statements as “the system may not detect small vehicles like motorcycles” in some automated car owner’s manuals.

“(This) is simply not acceptable from a safety point of view,” they added.

To combat this, Suzuki submitted patents for a bikes which is fitted by multiple radar deflectors to increase its visibility to radars.

Graphic credit Suzuki Corporation

However, Ducati and KTM are reportedly developing self-riding motorcycles, too.

It doesn’t mean that the rider takes his hands and feet off the controls like car drivers do so they can continue playing PUBG. Instead, the system detects other vehicles and takes action quicker than the rider could.

Check out the Ducati Multistrada 1260 GT and KTM 1290 Super Adventure prototypes.

Graphic credit Suzuki Corporation

There may be another way around this conundrum in mixed traffic. Bosch and their rival Continental are working on a cloud-based traffic management system using 5G interconnectivity.

Each vehicle sends the data of its location, heading, speed and others to a central computer which then regulates its and other vehicles’ speeds for “better harmony.” Yes, just like what we see in movies of some utopian future.

While it’s a great way to save lives, many feel that it will impede on personal freedom to enjoy driving. Well, not in KL downtown on Friday nights, but you get what we mean. This solution faces an uphill task as it will require every single vehicle to be equipped with the system.

But you know they said that reaching the moon was impossible a long time ago.


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