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Will Technology And Self-Driving Cars Push Motorcycles Off The Road? 

Oct. 6, 2022

Will there be room on the road for motorcycles in a future with self-driving cars and advanced safety technology? The questions that some motorcyclists, and many motorcycle organizations, are asking is whether there will be a safe place for them in the future with automatic vehicles and the technology that is designed to make cars safer. 

Vehicles are becoming more technologically driven with each passing year. Every new car has some type of advanced driver assistance system. For example, think of adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, blind corner warning, advanced emergency braking . . . and the list goes on.  Car manufacturers are continually working on technology that will keep us safer in our cars on the road and help avoid crashes and accidents.  All that technology is impressive. The question is: how will that technology impact the safety of those of us who prefer two wheels? 

Bikes are smaller than cars, making them a harder target for radar. This means that cars equipped with radar systems are likely to get closer to a bike before it is able to react. Motorcycles also have a lot of plastic or even carbon fiber for their body work which means they don’t reflect radar as well as big metal cars. This is great if a police radar can’t latch on, but not so good if an idiot is speeding towards you using his radar-assisted cruise control system. 

Fortunately, bike manufacturers are trying to come up with solutions to these problems. For example, they are developing radar reflectors that will make it easier for adaptive cruise controls and emergency braking systems to “see” motorcycles. Radar reflectors could be a useful aid as more semi-autonomous cars hit the road. 

One point that needs to be hammered home right now is that self-driving cars are on the road right now and bikers needs to be aware of that.  And, they are by far from perfect.  Most people understand this, but just in case, a recent incident in California might help shed some light on how these cars are performing in real life. 

In San Francisco, a police car pulled over a vehicle WITH NO DRIVER for operating without its headlights. After the police officer returned to his vehicle to confer with the other officer the self-driving car drove away and had to be pulled over again. To see the video of the police interacting with the car click here.

In addition to the safety aspect, there is an issue with responsibility for crashes, and how that could affect a biker hit by a self-driving car.  Unless some laws are passed, bikers could face a prohibitively expenses hurdle after a crash like this.  The driver blames the self-driving car. The car company blames the driver.  And in order to prove his case, the biker may need to hire engineers and other experts to figure it out.  And if the cost of proving it is more than the damages from the crash?  Bikers could be left with no recourse.   

For the safety and economic future of motorcyclists it is going to be vital for manufactures and lawmakers  to come up with more high-tech solutions to address the age-old problem of drivers (or now cars)  not seeing motorcycles.