01 Jun 2017

Two wheels closer to a safe arrival

Scientist are close to proving that bikers can benefit from the lifesaving autonomous braking technology found in new cars — and that total motorcycle accidents could be cut by about 30%.

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Moped or motorbike riders have a 12 times higher chance of dying per kilometre travelled than car drivers, according to researchers.

But one scientist is close to proving that bikers can benefit from the lifesaving autonomous braking technology found in new cars — and that total motorcycle accidents could be cut by about 30 % by networking the machines with car self-braking systems.

The European Commission published a car safety report in 2016 outlining that advanced emergency braking systems should be fitted to all new commercial vehicles, while in 2016 almost all US carmakers agreed to fit the systems as standard on new cars.

An European-born prototype focuses on transferring technology from cars to vulnerable motorcyclists, in this case, integrating emergency call systems into motorbike helmets and safety garments.

But rather than acting like a glorified hands-free headset, the technology developed by the EU-funded i-VITAL project features vital signs sensors and accelerometers, which can recognise crash situations through deceleration analysis. They can then automatically call emergency services via the connected smartphone app.

i-VITAL project coordinator Dr Rafael Maestre explains that encoded data in these calls give emergency services information like the crashed motorcyclist’s GPS position — and a vital link.

‘We are also planning to include a link to a remote server, a shortcut to give emergency staff real-time measurements of things like a biker's pulse and consciousness.’

With this, emergency services better know what to prepare for and how urgent medical attention is. Motorcyclists can also continue talking to emergency staff if they are able to, even when immobile.

Dr Maestre, a researcher with Spanish research centre CETEM, says riders in their focus groups stressed the need for reliability on long trips — and especially for battery life.

Thus, the EU-funded project integrates wind-powered charging to run the vital signs and accident-detection-sensor electronics in its NZI helmets, and clothes-optimised sensing electronics are included in biker garments from Dutch firm Lookwell.

The two-year project finished with fully functional prototypes in 2015 and Dr Maestre estimates that developmental funding could bring their solution to market in three years.

And although the current aim of i-VITAL is reducing fatalities after crashes happen, he says sensors like the heart rate monitor — along with speed and acceleration data — could eventually be used to help prevent crashes before they happen.

He believes the technology they’ve developed could also have applications in all situations where helmets are required, such as in firefighting, construction sites and even the military, but says that the most elegant possible adaptation of their technology could be the simplest.

‘For example, in a very similar field — cycling. We might have many challenges here in adapting the technology, as motorbike and cycle helmets are rather different, but it wouldn’t be difficult to have a bicycle-optimised system with the same or similar functionality.’

 

Source: Horizon Magazine