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MRF August Update

By Andy Kelly
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation were having hearings on “Autonomous Vehicles” in mid June. We are waiting to hear if any legislation on driverless vehicles will come out of these hearings.

I wonder how much, an incident that happened back on March 21, provoked the hearings. An on-duty Police Officer exited a freeway, in Phoenix Arizona, with a Tesla Model X behind him. The officer stopped for a stoplight and the Tesla, also stopping briefly, then began moving forward. The officer jumped off of his motorcycle and moved away. The Tesla hit the fallen motorcycle but no damage was reported. The Tesla driver told the police that he had the car in autopilot mode at the time of the incident. Thank goodness the officer was not injured. With no damage to either vehicle, normally an accident report would not be filed but being a Police Officer was involved a report was filed.

We have to remember how much self-driving/driverless vehicles legislation will need to addressed and how much an impact these vehicles will have on motorcycles. The MRF is mostly concerned with the safety of motorcyclists concerning these vehicles. To date, many of the technology developers as well as the automakers have not addressed motorcyclists concerns outright, instead only suggesting they are taking motorcyclists into consideration into their algorithms. However, they neglect to explain how.

One exception is Ford Motor Company which recently acknowledged the difficulty in accounting for motorcycles in relation to automation in vehicles, especially when it comes to motorcycles who engage in lane filtering. Recently, Ford was granted a patent to address this issue which is becoming more and more prevalent especially in major cities. According to the patent, Ford’s solution uses a combination of microphones and video cameras to detect the sound and shape of an approaching motorcycle. Once the motorcycle has been detected, the autonomous vehicle then has the option of not changing lanes, signaling longer, or changing lanes more slowly.

Of course, lane filtering is only one of the unique properties inherent to motorcyclists and there are many others according to the Motorcycle Riders Foundation. “The MRF is seeking assurances that any federal automated vehicle policy includes key considerations that are exclusive to motorcycles” said Megan Ekstrom, Vice-President of Government Affairs for the MRF. “We want to work with Congress and policymakers to ensure that the unique needs and requirements of motorcyclists across the U.S. are being considered and accounted for.” Megan went on to say, “Given motorcyclists’ smaller profile on our nation’s roadways in comparison to automobiles, commercial trucks, and other road users, assurances and requirements must be met to ensure that any technology can adequately and appropriately identify and respond to motorcycles in all traffic situations.”

I would also like to remind everyone that this year the 33rd Annual MEETING OF THE MINDS will be held in Williamsburg, VA on September 21-25 2017. With this year’s MOTM so close to Pennsylvania you may consider attending.

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Updated: 5/7/09 12:00 AM