This new autonomous motorcycle makes it possible to perform tests under more real-life conditions and circumstances
By Murray Slovick, Contributing Editor
The combination of rapid acceleration and extreme maneuverability means motorcycles present a particular challenge for advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). A new self-driving motorcycle co-developed by AB Dynamics (Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, England) promises to allow ADAS and autonomous systems to be tested under much more challenging and representative conditions (Fig. 1).
The technology demonstrator uses a BMW C1 motorbike with a steering controller designed by AutoRD to keep it upright. AB Dynamics provided an onboard robot controller running its standard RC software, allowing programming of the motion of the motorcycle and path-following via GPS positioning. In addition, AB Dynamics’ cross-platform Synchro technology enables coordination of the motorbike with other moving road elements, as well as synchronizes all data generated, enabling later review.
The riderless motorcycle has the full performance potential of the original bike, enabling more dynamic interactions to be tested, such as motorcycle overtaking, traffic filtering and lane splitting.
“A riderless motorcycle allows more comprehensive testing of autonomous or ADAS-equipped vehicles, without risking injury to a real rider,” explains Dr. Richard Simpson, senior systems engineer, AB Dynamics. “It also permits greater accuracy, repeatability, and consistency between tests than any human rider could achieve. This motorcycle is another excellent tool to complement our other testing equipment for autonomous and ADAS development.”
The BMW C1 motorcycle does not have a manual clutch, but incorporates ABS and a roof structure that’s convenient for mounting sensors. Subsequent developments will use a more modern machine with greater performance, according to AB Dynamics.
The company foresees interest from customers working in ADAS development and from those developing tests for self-driving cars.
In fact, a considerable amount of work is ongoing in the development of ADAS systems for motorbikes. Industry analysts forecast the global motorcycle ADAS market to grow at a CAGR of 27.35% through 2021.
Bosch, for example, has developed a motorcycle stability control (MSC) system that supports the rider during both braking and accelerating, and while either riding straight or cornering. The device utilizes advanced gyroscopes and accelerometers to detect parameters such as speed, lean angles, and braking force, and can quickly adjust electronic braking and throttle settings to help prevent a crash. The system provides assistance by continuously monitoring a comprehensive set of key vehicle data—including torque, lean angle, and acceleration—to detect critical situations and intervene if necessary. This significantly improves both riding stability and braking performance, according to the company.
According to estimates by Bosch accident research, motorcycle-to-car communication could prevent nearly one-third of motorcycle accidents. As such the company has developed a prototype for motorcycle-to-car communication with partners Autotalks, Cohda Wireless, and Ducati. The system uses Europe’s ITS-G5 wireless communications technology, which is based on the wireless standard IEEE 802.11p (Fig. 2).
In operation, the motorcycle will exchange information up to 10 times a second with other vehicles on the road within a radius of several hundred meters. The information can consist of vehicle type, speed, position, and direction of travel. When a motorcycle ends up in a car’s blind spot, or changes lanes to pass, this technology informs them that a motorcycle is approaching well before drivers or their vehicles’ sensors catch sight of the motorcycle. If the system identifies a potentially dangerous situation, it can warn the rider or driver by sounding an alarm and flashing a warning notice on the dashboard.
Other Bosch motorcycle ADAS systems being developed include:
- Adaptive cruise control: ACC adjusts the vehicle speed to the flow of traffic and maintains the necessary safe following distance. This can effectively prevent rear-end collisions caused by insufficient distance to the vehicle in front. ACC offer riders more convenience, but also allows them to concentrate more on the road, particularly in high-density traffic.
- Collision warning system: In road traffic, even the briefest lapse in concentration can have serious consequences. Bosch’s collision warning system for motorcycles reduces the risk of a rear-end collision or can mitigate its consequences. The system is active as soon as the vehicle starts, and it supports the rider in all relevant speed ranges. If the system detects that another vehicle is dangerously close and the rider doesn’t react to the situation, it warns the rider by way of an acoustic or optical signal.
- Blind-spot recognition: The blind-spot warning system works similarly to those implemented in a car. A radar sensor serves as the blind-spot recognition system’s electronic eye, registering objects in hard-to-see areas. The small radar sensor will help to detect vehicles approaching and offer a warning, ideally by illuminating a light in the appropriate side mirror. This system keeps a lookout in all directions to aid motorcyclists change lanes safely.