BMW's ironically named ConnectedRide

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Category: Dailies

With a camera to watch the road for you, lights that flash if something goes wrong, a crash sensing computer that automatically calls for help, warnings for bad weather, obstacles and emergency vehicles and assistants to keep you safe from cross traffic, left turns, passing cars and even red lights, the ConnectedRide concept builds on the already advanced safety features of the BMW K1600GT. If this is where BMW is going, then the future of motorcycling looks to be safer than sipping coffee in the comfort of your own home.

ConnectedRide is comprised of ten different rider aids. The first three are active systems that can exercise control over the motorcycle: flash the lights and honk the horn, call for help and apply the brakes. The other seven are informational, though in some cases they can work synergistically with the three active systems to enhance visibility. They include: speed information to time green lights, weather data, road obstacle and data scanning, emergency vehicle warning, notifying nearby BMW's (even cars) with ConnectedRide if your braking in front of them, scanning for drivers waiting to turn left and increasing turn signal visibility when passing.

Assuming these features function properly, some of them would probably add safety. The most practical are:

Daytime Riding Light
Incredibly bright LEDs make it so the Prius about to turn left in front of you knows you're coming. Good idea, though not very original. People (myself included) have been installing high-power HID low-beams for years, running high-beams during the day and sometimes even running headlight modulators, which strobe your running lights. People directly in front your bike, whether or not they're oncoming or moving in your direction can always see you. They may still try to hit you though. Not much of a new concept.

Automatic Collision Notification
The idea is that, if you crash and are incapacitated, the bike automatically calls for help. GPS ride trackers have existed for a while now and all this adds is BMW branding and a call center. BMW's system also records "more detailed information on the nature of the accident," which would likely include speed, lean angle, G-forces, braking force, wheel-spin or lock, traction control settings, engine speed and throttle opening. BMW would then have access to that information. It may help paramedics to know those things ahead of time, but they may also inform police, your insurance company or use it to void your warranty. An independent third party who only worked with paramedics would be much better for those reasons, this sounds a little too much like Big Brother.

Camera Based Rider Information and Assistance
This feature can display speed limits on the dash after reading them off the road signs with that onboard camera and also detects distance and tracks the location of objects relevant to the bike. If there is a risk of collision, the system displays a warning, flashes headlights, day-time running lights and turn signals, prepares the brake system for intervention and even honks the horn at people attempting to pull out in front of you.

That said, let's imagine a motorcyclist who is used to having his bike pay attention to lots of things for him. First, it's unlikely that the computer can monitor the road better than a person can so relying on systems like this to save you from dangerous situations seems unwise. Secondly, a rider used to such aids would most likely become a danger to himself and others when he hopped on a real bike free of such aids. "Oh my, a moose is wandering into the road ahead of me and my bike is failing to warn me or taking evasive action on its own, whatever shall I do?!"

Be your own high-tech notification system. Read the road signs, use the lights on your bike to your advantage, cover your brakes and honk when someone tries to endanger you. As a motorcyclist, you should be paying attention to these things anyway. It's unlikely a computer with a single camera and a few crude sensors will be able to do this more effectively than an experienced, attentive motorcyclist. It's hard not to draw a parallel between ConnectedRide concept and the ridiculous ultra-futuristic dashes and craptastic speech warning systems of '80s cars. Remember the synthesized voice warned you when the door was ajar? ConnectedRide's automatic flashing lights and speed limit display are eerily similar and maybe just as useless.

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