By: Michael C. Wilson
Image Courtesy of Bosch
Transportation isn't a simple gas up and go, point A to point B equation anymore. Now cars drive themselves, travel for hundreds of miles without gas, and soon won't have a steering wheel at all. And though the future of transportation is currently obsessed with humanity's conveyance of choice—the automobile—motorcycles and scooters will play a big role as cities grow denser and green living transitions from a fringe lifestyle to federal law.
To catch a glimpse of this future, Bosch flew me out to the green hills of the German countryside to visit its Mobility Solutions Proving Grounds in Boxberg. Although you've never ridden a Bosch-branded motorcycle, it's more than likely that you've seen a bike being secretly powered by Bosch. The company even provided parts for some of the very first bikes, including an low-voltage magneto ignition device, created in 1897, for the electric-powered De Dion-Bouton tricycle, the most successful European motor vehicle in the late 19th century.
But despite its century-long history, motorcycles have lots of room to grow. Nearly 3,000 people die in motorcycle accidents every day, riders are 18 percent more vulnerable to accidents than drivers, and nine out ten motorcycle accidents are due to human error. Bosch is trying to shrink those numbers through technology that could find its way into millions of future bikes.
Here's how they're going to do it.
The Best Motorcycle Rider is a Safe Rider
Motorcycles, by design, leave their rider exposed to accidents due to the physics of where the rubber meets the road, so how can technology improve what seems like an inherent flaw? Try making the bike smarter, starting with an anti-lock braking system.
One of the first things any new rider learns is not to use the brakes in a corner because it reduces traction and can result in a low-side crash (see above). It's not a good situation, and it can be a fatal one, leading to the majority of motorcycle accidents every year.
But Bosch is trying to make this fatal tendency a thing of the past. With advanced monitoring units, they can compute lean angle, speed, and position, so if you need to hit the brakes when Bambi darts out into the road, you'll maintain traction, and most importantly, not die. "If you look at the technology that has been used in cars over the last 20 years, you can see a definite trend of fatalities decreasing over time," Bosch's Tony Szczotka told Popular Mechanics. "That trend isn't the same for motorcycles because the technology has only now started to show up."