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Autonomous vehicles ‘will kill motorbikes’

BMW Vision Next 100 driverless automated self-driving artificial intelligence tests autonomous kill
BMW Vision Next 100 concept vehicles

The introduction of autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles could kill off motorcycles, a comprehensive American industry report has predicted.

The report was compiled by former Indian Motorcycle External Relations Manage Robert Panda, moto journo Guido Ebert and a group of industry luminaries cleverly called Give a Shift.

“There is a very real risk of motorcycling being completely cut out of the conversation for future vehicle infrastructure systems,” the group concludes in its report.

“As this (autonomous vehicles) technology grows, contemporary motorcycles will be even further elevated into higher risk categories in the eyes of traffic systems technologies, insurance companies, city planners and autonomous vehicle manufacturers who currently own and direct the conversation.

“The panel feels strongly that the single biggest threat to motorcycling overall (particularly in urban and higher density environments) will be the incompatibility between autonomous vehicles and existing motorcycles.”

The group says the technology will push self-operated vehicles such as motorcycles “out of the transportation matrix”.

Worldwide issue

This is not an issue isolated to America.

In May this year, a 24-page Austroads and National Transport Commission report on guidelines for trials of autonomous vehicles made no mention at all of motorcycles, although bicycles were mentioned.

This is despite the European Community temporarily suspending all autonomous vehicle testing until motorcycles were included after a female motorcycle rider was rear-ended by an automated Tesla S under test in Norway.

Australian Motorcycle Council representative Guy Stanford had called on authorities to slow down the testing and introduction of autonomous vehicles.

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

He said authorities seemed keen to progress toward autonomous vehicles without considering the impact on motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists who may not be detected by sophisticated vehicle sensors.

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

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

However, it seems motorcycles do not figure in the official guidelines.

Don’t kill off motorcycles

The Give a Shift panel says autonomous vehicles do not necessarily have to kill off motorcycles.

It says motorcycles should be promoted as “part of the solution for increasing population density and environmental issues”.

Autonomous self-balancing self-riding self-driving motorcycle scooter kill
Motorcycles can be part of vehicle-to-vehicle communications

They claim that if “smart vehicles” recognise motorcycles, it would increase rider safety.

“Soon ‘loud pipes save lives’ can be replaced with ‘You won’t get hit by a car if you’re on their radar’.” the panel says.

Give a Shift

The panel also looked at other factors affecting the motorcycle industry downfall and offered some solutions.

Apart the threat of autonomous vehicles, the panel saw these as the major problem:

  • Baby boomer buyers are quickly ageing and leaving motorcycling;
  • The industry has failed to reach out to women, minorities and millennials; and
  • Dealerships are too interested in selling expensive bikes and don’t now how to deal with new customers.

Among their suggested solutions are:

For more details on the report, click here.

  1. The last line in this article, I consider, is part of the problem. As long as people, and influential people such as motorbikerider, call using a motor bike ‘sport’ instead of a legitimate transport alternative. Others will not see motorcyclists and motor bikes as something serious and to be considered.

  2. Hi Keith,
    The Give a Shift panel uses the word “sport”. It’s difficult to tie it down to one word.
    For me it’s my job! It’s also a pastime, hobby, transport necessity, lifestyle and much more.
    I can understand your concern with the word “sport”, but that doesn’t mean it is dangerous or irresponsible. There are a lot of sports that are healthy, life-affirming pursuits.
    By the way, the International Olympic Committee and over 100 countries recognise chess as a sport!

  3. On the contrary, the industry should assume its role as promoters and developers of a viable transport alternative, the technology already exists, if the bikes are going to participate in the transportation systems of the future, they should start to incorporate sensors, transponders, gps, fall reduction systems and other security systems that are needed to circulate freely in an automated transit system, an autonomous vehicle circulating with a single person and three or four empty seats can be replaced by a motorcycle with a single occupant , occupies less space consumes less fuel and pollutes less even if it is electric, for the new generations the industry should improve the feeling of safety and the lower environmental impact of a motorbike and insurance there will be more users who can enjoy this excellent means of transport.
    Por el contrario la industria deberia asumir su papel como promotores y desarrolladores de una alternativa viable de transporte, la tecnologia ya existe , si las motos van a participar de los sistemas de transporte del futuro, deben empezar a incorporar los sensores, los transpondedores, los gps, los sistemas de reduccion de caidas y demas sistemas de seguridad que se necesitan para circular libremente en un sistema de transito automatizado, un vehiculo autonomo circulando con una sola persona y tres o cuatro plazas vacias puede ser reemplazado por una moto con un solo ocupante , ocupa menos espacio consume menos combustible y contamina menos aun si es electrica, para las nuevas generaciones la industria debe mejorar la sensacion de seguridad y el menor impacto ambiental de una moto y de seguro habra mas usuarios que puedan disfrutar de este excelente medio de transporte.

  4. Excellent points Giovanni. There is so much technology in the top of the line motorcycles these days. Manufactures almost have to be on board with collaborating with the autonomous vehicle trends.

    I also believe we (AV manufacturers, riders/enthusiasts, and MC manufacturers) need to understand why there may be an issue with detecting motorbikes and riders. If AVs can’t detect motorbikes and riders, where does that leave the cyclists we also share the road with?

  5. There are huge hurdles to over come for autonomous vehicles. Who is liable in a fatal crash? The effects on the environment due to the average yearly mileage increase per person which is expected to double. What to do with the dead lithium batteries that are difficult and expensive to recycle. Where to source cobolt from, from which these batteries are made, as the DR of Congo provides 70% of the worlds cobolt with child labour in dangerous mines. For mine so far it is 1 step forward, 2 steps back. I’ll keep riding my motorcycle. Maybe in 50 years…

  6. Headline: “Autonomous vehicles WILL kill motorbikes”

    Literally the first sentence: “The introduction of autonomous vehicles COULD kill off motorcycles”

    Later: “autonomous vehicles DO NOT NECESSARILY HAVE TO kill off motorcycles.”

    Am I missing something here or is this textbook clickbait amateur journalism? The headline even puts “will kill motorbikes” in quotes but does not reference that quote anywhere else in the article so I am left to wonder who actually said that.

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