Honda tech steers out of danger: Clever new tech brings the ability to take control and prevent accidents
When Honda unveiled the Riding Assist and Riding Assist-e concept bikes back in 2017 the self-balancing machines stunned with their autonomous abilities – and now Honda is developing the technology to use on the road.
The concept bikes could balance themselves, even when stationary, and could trundle along at a walking pace without a rider, using an array of sensors and self-steering as well as autothrottle and braking.
Now the latest patent suggests the aim isn’t to have a bike that assumes complete control, but one that can take an element of control from the rider either to give them a break or prevent an accident.
Bike-mounted radar is already a reality and Yamaha is trialling a steering-assist system on factory motocross bikes in the All-Japan championship, but Honda’s new patent is a huge step forward.
It combines cameras, radar and LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging, using lasers to create a virtual 3D map of the bike’s surroundings), with a series of automatic controls including throttle, brakes and steering, all overseen by a series of computer modules.
On top of that, there are the usual sensors for speed, acceleration and braking, plus GPS and a built-in ‘communication device’ – basically a mobile phone with cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity – plus a short-range system to ‘talk’ to nearby vehicles.
The steering system uses the same ‘magnetostrictive’ torque sensor setup that Yamaha’s prototype steering assistance is based on, monitoring the rider’s inputs and providing help when needed.
There’s also a rider-facing camera and pressure sensors in the seat, bar grips and footpegs to judge the rider’s weight distribution and posture. It can also monitor the position of pillions to account for their influence on the bike.
Altogether, the tech endows the bike with the same level of semi-autonomous ability as some of the very latest, high-end cars. So it gets adaptive cruise control (ACC) and lane-keeping assistance (LKAS) as well as auto lane-changing (ALC) and ‘low-speed car passing’ (LSP) to automatically overtake dawdling vehicles. It’s very close to having true autonomous riding ability.
The LKAS is more complex on bikes than cars. Where a car system positions the vehicle in the middle of the lane, the bike version has the ability to alter its position within the lane depending on circumstances.
For riding in groups, for instance, it will adopt a staggered pattern, offset from the bike ahead to maximise vision and increase the available braking distance. In corners, it uses the lane’s width to open the curve, and if a faster-moving bike is detected approaching from behind the system is designed to move to the side of the lane, letting it past.
Throughout all this, the rider is intended to be in overall control, with the system stepping in to help only when needed.