Pressure is mounting to add more and more so-called safety devices to motorcycles.
India’s Ministry of Road Transport and Highways is planning to mandate anti-lock braking systems (ABS) on all motorcycles and scooters.
Since it is such a big market and is now even exporting bikes overseas – the Harley-Davidson Street 500 is coming in February – it could have an influence over other markets.
Just as European and California emission standards flow through to the rest of the world, if a big market like India mandates ABS, others are like to follow.
India plans to phase it in, starting with higher capacity motorcycles, and expanding to all segments, even off-road bikes! Anyone who has ridden off-road will tell you ABS can be an impediment, rather than an aid. However, companies such as Bosch are now improving their ABS to include quite effective off-road settings.
While there are no calls yet for ABS to be mandated on bikes, the Federal Chamber of Automated Industries supports the “continued development, introduction, and promotion of better technology for safer motorcycles” such as ABS and traction control.
But that isn’t the end of these supposed safety devices which could become mandatory on bikes.
A Melbourne university doctor recently 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.
It also doesn’t take into account the fact that filtering is now allowed in two Australian states, California and various European and Asian countries. 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.
We need proper research by experts who know something about the dynamics of motorcycles and the needs of riders. Surely the main thing is that we should be allowed to choose to have or not have hi-tech safety devices on our motorcycles.