October 18, 2022
By Kali Kotoski
A new study released by the Connected Motorcycle Consortium — an industry-led group — proves that Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) pose safety risks for motorcyclists and other vulnerable road users. The study comes as governments plan to allow self-driving technology on public roads. For example, the United Kingdom plans to allow limited self-driving cars on its roads next year, with full implementation in 2025. The study provides actionable science to raise the standard for automakers to ensure that technology is safe for motorcyclists.
The study also aims to close the gap in ADAS research that has focused on detecting pedestrians, bicyclists and other four-wheeled traffic, but has never analyzed motorcycles as a singular variable.
The Consortium found that as drivers become more dependent on ADAS, they become less attentive to the task of driving. While the group says this technology could lower car-to-car collisions, car-to-motorcycle collisions would likely increase. The study also found that current technology can detect motorcycles but with a latency that may not give a driver, or the technology, enough time to react.
Focusing on radar-detection systems, which operate like sonar, the Consortium found that current settings have not dialed in the ability to detect motorcycles. The reason is that the radar detection systems can be set too low, which will adequately detect larger objects like cars, or set too high and thus unable to distinguish motorcycles from small, irrelevant detections.
There are similar concerns for camera-based ADAS systems and their ability to detect motorcycles that the study didn’t address. For example, suppose a camera is reading two taillights ahead that are at staggered distances. In that case, it can appear as one set of taillights, which is one of the hypotheses for the recent crashes involving Teslas that killed two motorcyclists in Utah and California after being struck from behind.
For automakers, the study concluded that radar systems need more robust testing and precise settings to account for motorcycles and the myriad differences between them and cars. In addition, the CMC advised that OEMs should consider adding radar reflectors on motorcycles, a common practice in the boating industry, to help ADAS systems detect motorcycles. Some places that could improve ADAS detection include the end of the handlebars, axles, mirrors or near the indicators and the front fender.
“By mounting [radar reflectors] on the ends of the bars and the bike’s axles front and rear, there’s no angle at which a radar can be pointed at a bike without hitting at least one of the reflectors, bouncing a strong signal back to the radar sensor and improving the conspicuity towards sensor-based ADAS,” the study said.