A UK publication has uncovered patent drawings which show Kawasaki is developing an onboard safety system that relies on radar to prevent crashes.
The patent photos published in MoreBikes show a system with both front-facing and rear-scanning radar, detecting threats in either direction. The front-facing radar is integrated to the motorcycle’s throttle system and ABS. When the motorcycle’s AI detects an imminent collision, it can reduce throttle input and/or activate the brakes.
Front-scanning radar will slow or stop the bike in emergency situations.
The rear-scanning radar detects threats approaching from behind. This technology is particularly useful if you’re waiting at a stoplight, as this scenario results in a significant portion of motorcycle fatalities. Other potential uses include MotoGP, where racers could use it to detect when Marc Marquez is about to ram them (a reasonable possibility when he’s starting from the back of the grid, due to penalties).
But seriously, folks—this sort of technology is a huge part of motorcycle safety going forward. With technology like lane detection, passenger cars become increasingly more automated every year, and if motorcycles are going to share the streets with four-wheeled vehicles in the future, expect this sort of technology to become more and more commonplace.
Rear-scanning radar warns of swiftly approaching vehicles from behind.
Not, of course, that Kawasaki has announced this tech will be included on any specific model. A patent drawing is no guarantee of factory production, and even though the drawings show the system installed on a Versys, we wouldn’t expect this on the 2020 model.
However, while several manufacturers are working on technology like this (Ducati and KTM have similar designs under development), Kawasaki’s approach to an AI-enabled motorcycle is fascinating. The company is working on stuff we just haven’t seen elsewhere, including “smart bike” technology that matches the motorcycle’s performance to the rider’s emotions. The stuff of Blade Runneresque sci-fi dreams, or the world of tomorrow? While some of these designs are taking longer to get to market than we expected, the future of autonomous motorcycling is still going to surprise us when it gets here—whether we like it or not. And while relinquishing control of your bike to artificial intelligence isn’t the experience many of us are looking for, at least some manufacturers are looking at how to keep motorcycles on the streets in a grim future when AI becomes mandatory.