In previous articles I described the rise of the Internet of Motorcycles era, in which different types of existing and upcoming communication technologies enable motorcycles and riders to share and collaborate on any type of information. What kind of possible applications could emerge? In this article a few futuristic yet realistic scenarios will be examined. For each scenario a problem statement defines what needs to be solved or improved.
I would like to know where my other group members are and their status.
Military-based technologies such as the internet, GPS, and radars have quickly transitioned and found their way into civilian life. The tactical map is an essential tool that any soldier needs: Where am I? What is my direction? Where should I go next? How do I get there? Where are the friendly forces? Where are the enemies and hazards? Tactical maps can answer those questions.
Modern fighter jets, specifically the F-35 and F-22, are all about real-time fusion of enormous sets of information and sharing them over data links with other forces, within the Air Force, ground troops, or any other military branch—and even foreign allies. U.S. Army units use sophisticated tactical digital map systems within Abrams tanks and Stryker armored personnel carriers that visually share location and status of the friendly and enemy forces and even allow units to send text messages and interactively set targets and navigation waypoints. The same is true for naval forces, such as submarines and ships. Surprisingly, similar types and methods of information sharing can be utilized by riders groups, with the exception that enemies would be deer and other road hazards.
I have recently written a product review about a Trail Tech Voyager Pro GPS unit that boasts, as one of its biggest features, an ability to dynamically visualize locations of other group members and even signal for help within the group. Similarly, the highly popular Waze navigation mobile application enables users to report all kinds of events (speed traps, road hazards, accidents), and the navigation algorithm takes that into account to recalculate and offer alternative optimal routes. Unfortunately, Voyager Pro and Waze only work for riders using the same unit or application. They are not exposing an open and interchangeable standard. Nevertheless, these are positive signs of things to come.
With upcoming 5G wireless networks, standard tactical map protocols could be developed and become widespread and work on motorcycles, navigation devices, or smartphones, to allow ubiquitous sharing between different vendors. The future tactical map would be a natural evolution of current digital maps that are provided by GPS devices and smartphones, but they will be augmented and enriched either manually by rider input or automatically.
How can safety be improved for a group of fast-moving vehicles?
Imagine a driver that is braking hard due to a deer jumping in front of the vehicle. By the time the rider behind the car realizes what is going on it may be too late, because it is not easy to estimate how hard the car is braking. At 55 mph, one second equals 80 precious feet. If the braking car would communicate its state to the motorcycle, the rider may get an early warning, such as a sharp visual and audio notification.
An even better solution would be for the motorcycle to autonomously slow down and brake as needed. As the motorcycle slows down, the other vehicles behind it would also get notified and slow down as well, therefore preventing a rear-end collision. This swarm-like behavior is very common in nature, for example with bees and fish.
Autonomous swarms can significantly reduce accidents and save many lives on the road—especially for us vulnerable riders with minimal protection. How is this achieved? At a minimum, each vehicle has to continuously broadcast two pieces of information: exact time and GPS position. Speed, acceleration, and direction can be easily mathematically derived from those attributes. Other optional attributes can include braking status and throttle position. The receiving vehicle processes all this information, decides if there is a threat or not, and its severity, and then takes action accordingly.
Sharing is Caring
Sometimes danger is hidden and hard to detect on your own.
As vehicles become smarter and self-aware, they can share their information with any other vehicle around, similar to how a group of wildlife animals, by having many eyes and ears, provides its members security from predators.
Today’s cars have sophisticated safety systems that use radars and cameras to detect slow-downs and collisions ahead, as well as drifting out of lane. These are quite efficient, but they are selfish—the information is not actively passed on to the surrounding vehicles. If danger is detected, then this information can also be automatically conveyed to the rest of the group, as a visual indicator on the tactical map or in the form of audio warnings. For example, an artificial intelligence image-processing algorithm can detect a fallen tree branch on the road ahead, notify about the hazard, and show it up on tactical maps of all group members.
My motorcycle should be in the best running condition at all times.
Airplanes have monitoring systems that continuously send engine status and other parameters to the manufacturer via satellite communications. The data is then analyzed for anomaly patterns that could indicate current or potential issues.
The same can be done with motorcycles. ECUs (engine control units) could utilize the high-availability networks to send metrics to a cloud service. Big-data algorithms would detect problems as they are developing, well before they cause a breakdown. Since this could be done in real time, the motorcycle may take action to reduce or eliminate the issue, or at least inform the rider and suggest possible preventive care actions.
The upcoming technologies open up infinite possibilities; the cases mentioned above are just a tiny sample of a huge spectrum of useful applications. These are exciting times as we get to see and experience a major shift in the evolution of motorcycles.