Go slow on ABS, ESC and autonomous vehicles

The Australian Motorcycle Council is calling on authorities to slow down the testing and introduction of autonomous vehicles and to abandon plans for mandatory ABS and traction control.

AMC representative Guy Stanford says authorities seem to keen to progress toward autonomous vehicles without considering the impact on motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists who may not be detected by sophisticated vehicles sensors.

In one case, a female motorcycle rider was rear-ended by an automated Tesla S under test in Norway.

“There is no doubt we are facing an electronic future, but is it as safe as they claim?” Guy asks.

He says autonomous vehicles represent a huge threat to smaller road users such as riders.

Guy Stanford - Mobile phone while riding - darrk visor helmets filtering laws autonomous
Guy and his V-Strom

Mandatory safety devices

Guy also calls for authorities to be cautious and not follow some other countries which are making ABS mandatory.

India makes ABS mandatory for all motorcycles with an engine bigger than 125cc from April 2017.

More than one in three new motorcycles manufactured in Europe is now fitted with ABS and Japan, Europe, Brazil and Taiwan have mandated anti-lock brakes on designated motorcycles.

Guy says that we could end up with cheap and relatively ineffective first-generation ABS simply to meet a regulatory obligation.

“That this may come about because of an over-estimation of crash reduction from ABS,” he says. 

“Many new motorcycles arriving in Australia have the latest ABS and we like that, although it adds around $1000 to the cost of the machine.   

“ABS for cars was not the promised magic silver bullet, but it did pave the way for ESC, which does work. There is no certainty that things that work for cars will work for motorcycles, but some authorities don’t see the difference. 

“We have to be careful of over-gizmoing things,” he says.

“The AMC view is that we would like to be able to inform people of the options but don’t tell us how to lead our lives.”

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Meanwhile, the Australian Federal Chamber of Automated Industries supports the “continued development, introduction, and promotion of better technology for safer motorcycles” such as ABS and traction control.

A Melbourne university doctor has even called for bikes to be fitted with automatic emergency braking technology found in many modern cars. These devices activate the brakes at slow speeds if an obstacle is sensed in front of the vehicle.

While that might work in a car where you are belted into a seat, it could cause a rider to be flung over the handlebars.

Lane FilteringLane filtering minister autonomous

It also doesn’t take into account the fact that filtering is progressively being introduced in Australian and American states. In filtering situations, riders get close to other vehicles which could easily activate emergency braking systems and send riders tumbling into traffic.

Automatic emergency braking is now widely available in cars, but is yet to be introduced in motorcycles. However BMW developed two experimental models — one motorcycle and one scooter — in 2011 and 2012, so it is being considered by the industry.

Unfortunately, the safety Nazis look at accident figures which show the high rate of accidents involving motorcycles and without any first-hand experience, they mistakenly believe that safety devices from other vehicles will work with motorcycles.

Guy says we need proper research by experts who know something about the dynamics of motorcycles and the needs of riders.