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BMW made a self-driving motorcycle (theverge.com)
19 points by cristiantyping 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 23 comments





The point of this motorcycle is to take over if it spots a potential crash scenario. This kind of passive system is the perfect kind of system for cars as well as motorcycles.

Self-driving systems are great for alertness/response time, where as humans are better at vision. So having the self-driving systems take over if the human misses something / becomes unwell is the perfect kind of human augmentation.

This is opposed to the Autopilot style, where the car uses it's poorer vision and the human uses their poorer alertness skills to take over if needed.


This is a very insightful comment.

BMW apparently wants to start by just helping to cut down on the most avoidable accidents.

The most avoidable accidents are not operator dependent:

- the “one party is going straight and the other is turning left at a four way” accident which is so common it has its own acronym: SMIDSY (Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See Ya)

- right hook at an intersection

That said, if BMW can do things like stabilizing the lean-in when you go into a turn hotter than planned and fail to commit, that might be nice. The solution is “push harder into the turn”, but it’s easy to be scared of this and thus go wide instead.


Crash is a better term than accident [0].

> the “one party is going straight and the other is turning left at a four way” accident

A self-driving motorcycle would solve that problem, because where as a motorcyclists vision is significantly impaired from the helmet, detection systems on the bike can be looking in all directions

[0]: https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2015/09/why-we-say-ca...


I agree that crash is the proper term, but i just forgot.

>, because where as a motorcyclists vision is significantly impaired from the helmet...

This is incorrect. My vision on the bike is not impaired by my helmet. My field of view in a car is more restricted -- and critically in SMIDSY situations, the peripheral field is obstructed by the pillars holding the roof up. SMIDSYs happen when the car fails to give way to the bike; usually this is due to the fact that bikes are small visual targets or unexpected ones. We may mitigate these problems by raising the visual salience of the bike, but we solve them by designing intersections such that they can't happen.


> My vision on the bike is not impaired by my helmet.

I've never worn a motorcycle helmet, but the visor seems so small that you'd lose some of the peripheral vision.

I agree that it would often be the car at fault, but as a cyclist I wouldn't care who was at fault I'd just want to avoid the crash. I'd only crash into the car if my peripheral vision missed the car.

> we solve them by designing intersections such that they can't happen.

I agree, but I don't want to wait for governments to fix every single bad junction that exists in the world.


Having been a motorcyclist when I was younger and ostensibly more reckless (not that motorcyclists are more reckless) I can tell you from experiance that you have very little getting in your way visually. However in a car you have two pillars holding your roof up to your immediate left and right, and door frames and boot pillars over either shoulders.

As a motorcyclist you have way more situational awareness than other vehicles on the road.

You also quickly learn that other road users are blissfully unaware of you and you drive accordingly.


> but we solve them by designing intersections such that they can't happen.

How? I'm a cyclist who also has to contend with these same problems..


for cyclists (and i’m a cyclist too), the dutch basically have this solved. You do this: https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2018/02/20/a-common-urban...

For motorcycles, you mostly only have to ensure turn arrows as well as normal stoplights. Permitting lane-splitting also helps.


I would have assumed most motorcycle accidents come from other drivers not seeing the motorcycles. In which case it seems like a helmet with multidirectional cameras and a warning system (eg alerts if you're in another car's blind-spot, or if the car in front of you has stopped rapidly) would have more impact than modifying the motorcycle.

Why buy a self-driving motorcycle?

I understand self-driving cars, some people really enjoy the idea of doing things in a moving pod (trains and buses are too lower class for them?), but a BMW motorcycle is something you buy because you like the idea of piloting an engine while being exposed to air and the elements, battling physics and -unless you bought a BMW because you want to show off- owning a vehicle that can be very reliable on extremely rough terrain.


Trains and buses do have their flaws.

Both have a defined start and end time, and place that they pick up and drop off. Additionally both don't have the best coverage, especially outside of large cities, and then not all of them either. Also Trains can be more expensive than driving.

Completely agree with you about the reasons to buy a motorbike. I'm not convinced that people would pay for this. I would certainly be concerned if I was on a bike that started to do stuff without me. Riding a motorbike is more interactive than driving a car.

I could see them displaying more info for a rider, maybe some sort of HUD in the helmet. Like, a red light to a side that a vehicle is on as a warning not to overtake. Though I'm not convinced this would be better than just being aware of your surroundings.


I'll address the lower class question. While I love using trains, buses, my 100+ mpg motorcycle, and other cheap forms of transportation, let's not pretend that trains and buses are a perfect replacement.

If they are even available in your area, they have set pickup points, don't leave when you want them to (could be a 30min wait), could involve transferring, could be overcrowded, don't allow music played through speakers (hopefully), and sometimes go out of service at night.

I only put up with this since, in the end, it is not that bad compared to the cost of owning a vehicle + having to drive and park it, given my current finances and goals. Once I achieve my goals? Private pod 9/10 times!


I wouldn't, but I would buy a motorcycle that could detect a low siding event and take evasive action, like a better ABS.

Oh, another scenario is taking pictures. It would be nice to be able to take pictures while driving.


Well the story confirms what was posted elsewhere, that this one done to accelerate testing of safety systems for all motorcycles. plus I can imagine the benefit of testing any changes to a motorcycle including more radical geometry changes.

Now if we go the idea of self driving why does it have to be a traditional motorcycle. How about a two wheel pod complete with stability wheels when stopped? Need a ride, hail a service using these and it can be done very cheaply. the self driving self service revolution need not be confined to four wheeled vehicles


Same argument can be made for automatic transmission on a bike. People dont like it but rather than enjoying the ride, there is also joy of commuting easily. So, while this doesnt make sense now, someone will want it.

Near the end of the video they explain. It's not meant to be a fully autonomous motorcycle. It's a passive system so that the motorcycle can take over if it needs to.

It will make price so much bigger. And introduce a lot of unnecessary tech. One of the beauties of motorcycle is that it's simple and relatively cheap.

They won't be able to sell the bikes if the price is that much higher.

The 'unnecessary' tech is designed to lower the very high death rate of motorcyclists.

It will indeed make the bike more complex, but if you don't want the tech you don't need to buy the bike, it will be purely for those who prefer the extra safety (assuming that the safety is indeed improved by these changes).


Some modern motorcycles are not simple in the slightest, unfortunately - we’re at the point where you can’t maintain some higher-end bikes entirely yourself. Some people appear to like the technology.

Shared space will always be "lesser good" than private space. You don't behave, feel, enjoy things the same way in a shared space.

And you will never see on the road. As a motorcycle rider, I will not be happy to see surprise manuever !!

The article already states that it will never be on the road and already mentions your concern as one of the challenges.



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