How Will Self Driving Cars Affect Our Motorcycle Use

Will motorcycles be banned from public highways in our near future?

Over the last two years Google has been quietly, (and some say illegally) testing a fleet of autonomous vehicles that navigate the highway without any direct input from human drivers.   Sebastian Thrun, director of Google’s autonomous vehicle research program, wrote that the project had achieved 200,000 miles of driving without an accident while cars were under computer control.

This week the State of Nevada finalized a few modifications to its rules of the road that will allow robotic driven vehicles to be driven legally on its highways.

Several automakers are deploying sensor based safety systems that help prevent accidents.  Some simply alert the driver, and others go so far as to correct drivers actions, or inaction.  Adaptive cruise control and emergency braking help prevent collisions.  Blind-spot detection, adaptive headlights and night-vision assistance systems are also offered in a number of 2012 models.  However, what Google is doing makes these advances seem as rudimentary as the improvement from bias ply to radial tires.

Ask any motorcyclist who has a few miles under his or her belt, and they'll tell you they've had someone turn left in front of them which either caused them to wreck or resulted in panic braking.  Once this technology becomes mandatory, and most vehicles on the highway are auto driven, accidents involving human error will plummet, making it safer to ride a motorcycle.

One of Google's auto-pilot vehicles

But, as the saying goes, there's the rub.  Human error accounts for almost all the 33,000 deaths and 1.2 million injuries that now occur each year on the nation’s roads.    The financial impact is staggering.

In 2008, AAA did a study and estimated traffic accidents cost Americans an estimated $164.2 billion dollars annually.  Those costs are borne by each of us in the form of auto and health insurance premiums,  emergency and police services, property damage, lost productivity and quality of life.

Vehicles that drive themselves will be able to avoid 99% of all accidents,  eliminating those costs, saving us all money, reducing stress, and giving us back hundreds of hours that is now unproductive time spent behind the wheel.

But, hold on a minute.  If cars, trucks and buses are all on auto-pilot, that leaves only a small minority of road users, namely the motorcycle community with the free will and distracted driving capabilities to throw a monkey wrench into the system.

That leaves only one conclusion.  Just as Henry Ford did to the horse-drawn carriage with the Model T, Google's auto-pilot technology signals the (beginning of the) end of the motorcycle as a transportation vehicle on our nation's highway.

With a financial incentive in the billions of dollars, the insurance lobby of the future will ultimately pressure the federal government to enact laws that restrict where "self-directed" vehicles are allowed.  (more after the poll)

Sven A. Beiker,  executive director of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford University told National Public Radio, on NPR's Morning Edition, there are "significant issues" to overcome before anyone can accurately predict a future when we will see completely autonomous vehicles.   Right now the computers and cameras cannot recognize a police officer, or highway construction worker who is directing traffic to proceed in a way that is illogical or counter intuitive to the best route input into the computer's guidance system. Then there is the vulnerability of the guidance systems, global positioning satellites, to jamming by hackers and cyber terrorists.

Google watchers and those with inside knowledge of the technology believe auto-pilot vehicles will first be deployed as delivery vehicles, taxis, and buses.  How quickly the technology transitions from utility vehicles to personal vehicles is anybody's guess at this point, but the sad truth is that once a tipping point is reached, say 75% of vehicles are running on auto-drive, the push to rid the highways of "dangerous self driving vehicles" will begin in earnest.   In the NPR report, the author even alludes to a "future ban" on human operated vehicles.

When that happens, so will your ability to pick a destination on a map, load up the motorcycle and head out across this great country with your only worries being rain, bugs and that distracted driver who turns left in front of you.




Web Staff


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  36. yeah i agreed this, self driving cars create difficulties for bikers thats why i use Maximum Shred for gaining extra intelligent ability which provides me best focus to my brain… to take safe decision.

  37. Traffic is one of the issue in most of developing issue and for this researchers keep on going research in different ways to over come this problem. Like in the country of Nevada have legally approved that robot will drive automobile to avoid accidents.

  38. "Vehicles that drive themselves will be able to avoid 99% of all accidents,"

    In my decades of driving (and riding), I've never had a collision. So for me, it would eliminate 0 car crashes. (Funny how most of the careful drivers never do, and reckless drivers frequently do.) You could also eliminate a significant percentage of accidents if you put breathalyzers on all car ignitions, but is it politically feasible to do? That's the question.

    "reducing stress"

    I for one do not think that it would be less stressful being inside a car outside of my own control. Most psychologists seem to say that being happy is directly related to being in control yourself. Are automobile passengers notably less stressed than drivers? Even when it's convenient, people tend to avoid carpooling. I certainly don't see people ever choosing to be passengers, when they are capable of driving.

  39. Obamas dream! Big brother watching and taking care of you! Works great in Europe!

  40. Actually South Korea banned motorcycles on highway in 1972 during the totalitarian regime under President Pak who was a general of Korean Army. The excuse was motorcycles were slow and dangerous which is lie.

    In 1971, total number of dead people by traffic accident in South Korea was 26. The number of death increased up to 10,000+ in 1991. Four hundred times more death than 40 years ago.

    A country that only allows cars on highway become the number one country of traffic accident in the world. How can it be? South Korea is worst place of driving out of 40 OECD countries for years.

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  41. Personally, I think they should spend less time and money on self-driving vehicles and more on high speed trains. I will never give up riding, and train travel is so prevalent in the rest of the world, it only makes sense, too bad there's not more attention to it for the US.

  42. This wouldn't affect only motorcyclists not being able to use our nation's roadways. How many people own classic cars/hot rods that they are not about to quit driving or trade in for a high-tech (and likely very expensive) vehicle? I ride and I love hot rods and I don't see this happening without a lot of noise from those who want nothing to do with it. Hybrid vehicles were "the way of the future" too but I don't know a single person who owns one or wants one and I don't think they'll want one of these either. Doubt that either of these technologies will be mainstream in my lifetime.

  43. I can't imagine that this will come along any time soon.

    Sure, for the vast, empty distances of the middle of the USA, a self-driving vehicle would do just fine. But if you've ever come to the UK and seen our incredibly complicated road network – especially the roads in our cities who's street plans are over 2000 years old – and there's not a snowball's chance in hell that modern AI could navigate our roads safely.

  44. This sounds like the flying cars prediction. They can do it, but it isn't economically realistic. Who would be liable if there were an accident? The liability is way too high. If they do ban " self-drive" vehicles, hopefully they will be chasing me down in one too. Sometimes the best option is not always the safest.

  45. Great article, agree with it in general. I have posted about it on my blog.

    Although I think that 'self directed' vehicles will eventually be banned on public roads in 15-20 years I think there will still be a space for riders to use racetracks, national parks and deserts.

    We still use horses 100 years after no longer needing them, surely we will still be riding 100 years from now?
    My recent post The End of Motorcycles?

  46. Does anyone remember all of the software bugs in the Prius after it was introduced? This is a nice story about a perfect world of machines that will never screw up. I've worked with electronics my whole career working in factory automation and new product development for commercial products. Only a politician would believe that we can make robots cars of this magnitude that will never cause an accident. Heck my cell phone can't get through the day without locking up what would happen with cars having to reset themselves on the open road at high speed? Remember the old joke about how Microsoft could never make cars? No would buy a car that you would have to stop, rollup all the windows and restart it all the time to keep it going. Do they really think that Americans who love to drive are just going to give up their cars for self driving vehicles? The safetycrats want to live in this bubble of perfect safety. That is not living that is existing.

  47. I can't even begin to believe that this will happen in my lifetime!! Kinda reminds me of George Jetson in his auto pilot flying vehicle. **NOTHING** can replace a human driving their own vehicle… there are too many errors that could occur to make this idea feasible. And take away my right to drive my motorcycle?? Over my dead body!!!

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