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Bikers to benefit from more safety

Close up photo of a man in a cycle helmet
14th May 2014

Safety devices more commonly associated with 4-wheeled vehicles could be introduced to the next generation of production bikes if tests carried by the Motor Industry Research Association (now known as Mira) are successful.

Collision detection systems and warning systems that inform drivers about speed limits and sharp corners are features which up until now have only been found in some cars and heavy goods vehicles. But now a new bike-based technology, called Saferider, could bring these safety features on to two wheels within a few years. The Saferider system is being developed by researchers at Mira as a response to the rise in the number of bikers being killed in motorbike accidents on the road each year in the UK. According to Mira, bikers already make up 22% of all road accident fatalities and they are the only group of road users where the number of deaths is on the increase.

To adapt the safety systems found in cars and heavy goods vehicles, the Mira team say they have had to overcome several challenges. Unlike vehicles with a cab or enclosed body, bikers have to put up with a high level of background noise when they are riding, as well as more vibration than you might experience in a car. This makes getting the attention of a biker a particularly difficult task.

The technology being tested by researchers to overcome these problems is based around something called “Haptic Feedback”. Haptic technology uses our sense of touch to give us information which contrasts with the audible or visual safety warnings which might be found in cars. Haptic systems have been fitted to the handlebars of the bikes being tested by Mira, with additional systems also being located inside the rider’s helmets. Using small motors in the cheek pads of the rider’s helmet would allow the system to warn them about vehicles close to their bike – which would be very useful in preventing motorbike crashes during overtaking and lane-changing manoeuvres.

Work on the prototype technology is continuing, but according to Mira, the results so far have shown that it is feasible to fit these kinds of safety systems to bikes. According to a consultant at Mira, manufacturers could start offering bikes equipped with the Saferider system within two years.