Over the lifespan of the motorcycle as a design, traffic laws have been an ever-changing mix of obstacles to riders and much-sought-after protection, depending on who is in control of the legislature and the local attitude toward motorcyclists. Today, riders can enjoy more protection than ever before as legislators across the country work to improve motorcycle road safety until it is on par with automobile safety. Unfortunately, there are innovations on the horizon that many see as threatening to motorcycle riders, and that has led some to question the feasibility of sharing the road. One of those innovations is the use of self-driving cars operated by artificial intelligence, but at least one influential entrepreneur is seeing the advent of AI on the road in another light.
Enter Jay Giraud, CEO of Damon Motors
Mr. Giraud acknowledges the advent of self-driving cars as a special threat, but he also sees it as an opportunity, one his startup hopes to be able to use to increase motorcycle safety using AI. Rather than predicting AI-powered vehicles will be more chaotic than human drivers, he points out that traffic has increased fourfold in the last 50 years. Then he asks how these new systems can make something like a motorcycle, which has no self-driving option on the horizon, into a safe ride when it’s alongside other AI-guided vehicles.
His answer is revolutionary and doesn’t actually involve that much new technology, because it depends on a system that was developed decades ago for detecting threats from the air. It’s called Multi-Object Phase Tracking and Ranging, and it uses a series of radar signals to identify and track movement. Coupled with the right smart tracking system, it can identify unique objects and track their movements, alarming the operator if their pattern of behavior changes in a way that puts them in danger of collision. This was possible even without artificial intelligence, but when you consider the possibilities of a system that goes beyond smart tracking and into machine learning, the future looks even brighter.
The future Jay Giraud proposes is one where a learning system capable of constant improvement monitors the road with you, using the MOPTAR system with automotive-grade radar and cameras. It alerts you, the rider, whenever another vehicle begins to make moves that could threaten your trajectory, based on your own navigational plan and immediate surroundings. It also monitors for sudden hazards, like objects falling off a bridge or the back of a truck, and the alerts come early enough to allow you the opportunity to navigate around the hazard, brake, or otherwise act defensively.
That kind of system isn’t too far off, because it uses the existing innovations in both sensor technology and AI to synthesize a new idea that motorcyclists could really benefit from. It might even be enough to offset the dangers posed by driverless cars, but will it be enough to full protect riders? If the technology goes through a revolution, it only seems logical the traffic laws should go through an evolution.
Laws With Rider Safety and Traffic Efficiency in Mind
The history of motorcycle traffic laws is not one that reflects a deep understanding of and appreciation for the differences between automobiles and motorcycles, and how motorcycles can be granted privileges that allow them to alleviate traffic problems in cities. That’s changing quite a bit now, but most of the best changes have happened over just the last couple decades, and motorcycles have been sharing the road for over a hundred years. If rider safety is going to continue improving, it will take more than just technology. New laws that protect riders and acknowledge their unique needs will need to be more widely adapted, laws that firm up right of way rules and liability so self-driving systems will have rider safety as a structurally important part of compliance with traffic laws.
There will also need to be new laws that acknowledge the need cyclists will have to maneuver in response to threats as they begin using these hazard warning systems, because there could be times when maneuvering safely and legally are in conflict. Those kinds of issues can be hard to predict up front, making many legislators want to sit back and respond to problems as they crop up. There are some changes that can be made now, though, that will reflect well on the needs of riders in the coming years. One such change, the addition of lane splitting laws to protect riders, is already catching on.
Why Is Lane Splitting Important?
If you aren’t familiar with the practice, lane splitting is when motorcyclists ride the lane line between vehicles. This essentially creates a new motorcycle-only lane of movement in congested traffic systems, and it also keeps riders in low-speed areas from slowing down the progress of larger vehicles around them. It’s a controversial practice, though, and has led to some conflict on the road, as well as some attempts by law enforcement to crack down and treat riders like they are in cars. More and more, though, it’s come to be accepted as a safe practice when done correctly and in the right situations, and allowing for practices like lane splitting is one way to open up legal maneuverability to riders to help them avoid accidents.
Evolving Traffic Laws Further
One new policy change isn’t going to solve all the issues motorcycle riders face on the road, but a conscientious push to make sure legislators understand the needs of riders, the unique characteristics of motorcycles, and the evolving relationship between cars and bikes will help. The only way to be ready for whatever the advent of artificial intelligence brings to the roadways is by developing fair, safe, and compassionate systems now, and then working to keep them that way.
When you’re on the road, you need to make sure you have the gear to protect yourself, because the law counts on riders doing their best to maintain their personal safety. When you need new pads, helmets, or gear, check out what’s available from the biggest source for motorcycle gear online.