The Future of Motorcycle Electronics

Motorcycle electronics and control systems are on the cusp of making another massive leap forward in order to meet future performance, safety and emissions needs according to technology giants, Bosch.

Connected ride systems, motorcycles that can 'talk' to other vehicles, advanced ABS, electronically controlled variable valve timing, active engine cylinder management, turbocharging, super-charging and advanced electronically controlled suspension are all on the way - not just for top-end superbikes but for the mass market.

Global electronics giant Bosch are taking the advances in motorcycle technology so seriously that they have created an all-new division to focus solely on motorcycles and scooters, with 40 dedicated engineers. Within a year this division will grow to over 100 people, with bases in Japan, China, America and Germany.

Geoff Liersch is the boss of the two-wheeled division, an Australian living in Japan at Bosch's massive Yokohama site. Mr. Liersch explained the leap in technology we can expect to folter down from range-topping motorcycles to almost every new motorcycle over 400cc.
Bosch wants to accelerate the improvements in motorcycle safety, according to Liersch. We have seen resistance to technology among motorcyclists diminish in recent years as new innovations have been introduced.

We will seea lot of the technology currently in use in the car industry move onto motorcycles. Already you have seen technology like variable valve timing on new Ducati Multistrada 1200 DVT arrive. This will continue to accelerate.

Motorcycles have a very different Human Machine Interface (HMI) where two hands are needed to control the vehicle and this creates different challenges for some of the connectivity between vehicles we are seeing in the car industry from crossing over, but that can be overcome.

The biggest challenge

Packing is a much-used word that best describes the uniue issues motorcycle technology has to overcome. Motorcycles simply don't have the space cars do to integrate myriad control systems.

Downsizing is the factor that dominates most car development these days with even the most powerful supercars getting turbos, hybrid powerplants and smaller – capacity engines in pursuit of lower exhaust emissions. Motorcycles are some way behind, with Kawasaki's H2 being one of the first of the new breed with tis epoch-making supercharger.

Liersch added: 'I think for the next five years at least the introduction of technology around forced induction will be for performance reasons, but beyond 10 years this will be more focused on improving emissions and reducing capacity. The biggest issue with these systems in the past was engine management, but our knowledge of this will help control it. It remains likely this will be for motorcycles of 600cc and above, but there are some big problems with turbocharging in terms of packaging and in this way supercharging has some advantages for motorcycles. At the moment the manufacturers are building engines for performance more than efficiency, as customers want this.'

So what's next for motorcycles?

On motorcycles above 400cc I would expect to see the wide application of cornering ABS, and some kind of motorcycle Stability Control (MSC) as part of their basic package. For top-end motorcycles these systems will get even more advanced.

One tough task Bosch is working on is how to stop motorcycles from low-siding – where the motorcycle runs out of side grip while cornering and crashes – utilising some of the same sensors used for cornering ABS and MSC.

Liersch explained: 'We can already detect the side slip as part of the loss of grip but we need to get the motorcycle to stand up to conteract this. We have some ideas on this, but it's not easy at all.

In terms of MSC we can put a lot more information into the system which can help to give warnings ahead of any danger. It's possible for the grip coefficient of the road to be measured and scanned along wiht the camber of the road so the motorcycle knows what scenario it might have to deal within an emergency braking situation.

Just 10 years ago motorcycle ABS was crude and often ineffectual, while cornering ABS, traction, wheelie, lift and slide control were all sci-fi fantasies. There's every indication in 10 years' time our motorcycles will be clearly reading the road ahead, driving the potential for a revolution in motorcycle safety only likely to be matched by car drivers waking up to the dangers of texting while driving.
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