If we’re honest, I think most of us enjoy a love/hate relationship with our electronics
We revel in the ability to have access to the whole world through these little space-aged devises called smartphones, yet we sometimes groan when realizing we can no longer feel a real sense of privacy.
There is always the means for another person to access us. And have you ever tried turning off your mobile phone for an entire day without first warning everybody?
The same could be said, I think, when speaking about the latest technologies applied to our motorcycles.
Traction control can sometimes make our powerful motors feel like they are being neutered.
ABS can often hinder us from easily backing-in our bikes into a corner.
Our rider aides are almost universally helpful, but at times, I find myself wishing for the good ol’ days when a motorcycle was just a motorcycle. If you rode it poorly, you crashed the stupid thing. Too much front brake? You low-sided. Too much throttle, and you high-sided yourself into a guardrail. Hit a car hiding in a blind spot, you died.
Okay, so on second thought, maybe we should continue to come up with these new and sound ways to make our beloved motorcycles safer through its electronics. But couldn’t we maybe accomplish this progress without losing all the thrills and chills of what it means to really ride a motorcycle like you stole it?
Off to Neverland
Enter the recent Bosch Motorcycle Riding Event—held at Bosch’s massive proving grounds facility near Boxberg, Germany. The grounds are a very impressive private mass of land, similar to a military base, including a guard gate and large hangers but instead of runways, it has testing tracks for both two and four wheeled vehicles.
The property has twisty tracks, fast tracks, even a huge banked oval like you’d find at Monza’s Temple of Speed in Italy. There’s a large dry skid pad, a large wet skid pad, and a series of man-made hills with varying grades. The place is a friggin’ playground for big kids. If I were born with Michael Jackson’s money, this would be my Neverland!
“The aim of this event,” said Bosch’s regional business unit leader Dr. Fevzi Yildirim during his keynote address, “is for Bosch and some of its partners to give you a glimpse into the future. Urbanization, sustainability, safety, and connectivity will fundamentally change mobility as we know it today—and the motorcycle must therefore redefine itself.”
Achim Haller, of Bosch’s advanced team of researchers and developers adds, “Most things you are about to see were top secret up until, well… just right now!” He laughs, then continues with his heavy German accent. “We want to show you new things not yet available on the market, but this is only one possible future for us. Our prototypes we will show you today are only very rough examples and basic functions. However, we ask that you to keep an open mind.”
We were then asked to suit up into our safety gear, split up into smaller groups, and led by shuttles to eight separate stations to educate us on some of the current Bosch motorcycle safety technologies available today, some arriving to showrooms in 2018, then finally some pure prototype technologies currently being developed by Bosch for a possible future. It is indeed cool stuff.
I feel compelled to mention that there is so much information gathered at each eight stations, there is enough content to write eight separate articles, one for each. So please forgive me while I try to hit the most compelling details in the most efficient manner. Also, we didn’t go to the stations in numerical order, in case you were wondering.
Bosch is now in the business of designing and manufacturing components for Light eMobility mopeds, motorcycles, tricycles and quadricycles. Scooter OEMs can now save on development and R&D costs by simply purchasing directly from Bosch their electric powertrains between 0.25kW and 20kW (the coolest thing being their Wheel Hub Motors, which replaces the spokes in rear wheels from 10in to 14in), control units, 18650 Lithium Ion batteries (the same that Tesla uses) chargers, Human Machine Interface (HMI) segmented LCD displays, and smartphone integrated apps.
By far the coolest thing at this station was Bosch’s swappable Li/Ion battery with a capacity of 26 amp/hours. These 17lb removable batteries could easily be hand-carried up to a home for charging, be rented out or leased, or even used as a power backup for homes that experience a power outage.
We got to ride a few of Bosch’s eScooters around the grounds and naturally, they’re zippy and quiet. If you’ve never ridden a two-wheeled electric vehicle before, I highly recommend trying it. It’s a different riding experience, and really fun. In 2010, I won the TT Zero race on the Isle of Man riding an Oregon-based MotoCzysz monster. Unlike these flickable waifs of modern scooter, that electric race bike could surpass 130mph on the Sulby Straight, but weighed more than a Gold Wing. Good times!
Station 2—ICC (Integrated Connectivity Cluster)
Bosch’s new proprietary TFT dashboard can connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth to receive phone calls or play music into optional headphones/microphone fixed inside your helmet. All controls are easily seen on the display and operated by buttons and wheels found on your handlebars. Bosch’s new TFT was also bright and crisp.
We got to test ride a 2017 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R demo bike with this technology installed, listen to music and take a phone call, and it all worked flawlessly.
It works so good, in fact, that the 2017 CES show in Las Vegas awarded Bosch with the Gold Shield for Best of Innovation in Vehicle Audio & Video.
Station 4—Connected Into the Future
Connected Into The Future, in its prototype phase, effectively means your bike gets equipped with a Bosch Connectivity Control Unit that communicates with many of the other sensors and systems on the bike as well as Data Recording, and then interacts with the Cloud through your smartphone to provide real time maps, weather, road hazards, speed limits, traffic information, most probable path, and upcoming sharp corner alerts (via audio), etc.
There is also a SIM Card embedded inside the control unit which establishes a voice and data connection to a paid service provider, a live person, sitting somewhere monitoring if you need assistance even if you were rendered unconscious. The system works off WLAN.
Emergency eCall (mandatory for all new passenger cars and light-truck models throughout the European Union from April 2018), Stolen Vehicle Tracking and Breakdown Call (bCall), also come with the package.
We were offered to ride a bike fitted with a prototype version of the Sharp Curve Alert. Minutes later I was snaking down a twisty kart track when a women’s voice started alerting me inside my demo helmet to slow down, “Sharp corner approaching!”
“Good!” I replied.
It’s very early days with this prototype but I think to fully implement it correctly, Bosch is going to have to come up with a way so that the annoying women’s voice is not barking advice into our ears too often, or we’ll just end up tuning her out like we sometimes do with our mothers.
Station 6—HHC/VHC (Hill Hold Control/Vehicle Hold Control)
This was damn cool. Now that so many of the enhanced ABS setups on today’s bikes are coming with some form of electronics built into them (like linked brakes front to back), Bosch has come up with a system (currently available on select KTMs and Ducatis) where if stopped on a steep incline or decline, you depress the front brake for a certain number of seconds (the duration depends on the bike), then the brakes remain ‘on’ without a further need to keep pulling on the lever. After five to nine seconds (again, depending on the model), the system will slowly disengage and the bike can and will start to roll again.
Or, when you’re ready to move the bike forward again yourself, you just throttle it up and pull away from the stop as the brakes automatically and seamlessly release themselves in a calm smooth manner.
It’s pretty neat stuff, and is a system I’d use quite often.
Station 7—EMS (Engine Management Systems)
Bosch has been around a long time making products ranging from dishwashers, cordless power tools, to fuel injectors. But some of Bosch’s most truly innovative products come in the way of their Engine Management Systems. These systems include fuel supply and injection, exhaust gas treatment, ignition modules, and air management.
With global trends of legislating engine manufactures to emit cleaner air, groups like the EPA/CARB in the U.S. and the infamous Euro standards (currently at Euro 4 and rising), Bosch says motorcycles engines must adapt with environmental trends or they’ll go extinct.
It was cool to hold in my hands so many of the ingenious devices normally taken for granted inside our bikes and listen to some of the actual Bosch engineers involved in inventing such devices.
It made me ask myself, “What have I invented in my lifetime to help humanity and the earth?”
I fell silent on the answer.
Station 5—MSC (Motorcycle Stability Control)
Most motorcycle accidents and fatalities happen from riders who grab too much front brake mid-corner and either fall down or the bike stands up and goes wide. Bosch wanted to develop systems that would make cornering a motorcycle safer.
Motorcycle Stability Control deals with some of the latest real world rider aides of our time. Electronic Combined Brake Systems (eCBS—a system that electronically applies rear brake to your machine when the system deems it beneficial); ABS with lean angle sensitivity; traction control with lean angle sensitivity; rear-wheel lift control; and wheelie control were some of the systems we were going to test to their absolute maximum parameters. Oh dear.
We headed to Bosch’s enormous skid pad to test the various types of ABS and MSC systems, and each of our fleet of top-shelf motorcycles came equipped with various systems. Some had simple ABS, some enjoyed full eCBS linked braking systems, while others had with rear-wheel lift control fitted.
The linked eCBS was far less intrusive and scary than I thought it’d be. Under hard front braking at full lean angle and while still scraping my knee, the bike would just slow down at a massive rate, with no front tuck and the rear wheel remained planted and tidy. Outrageous.
At the end of our sessions, I thought I get more cheeky and physically try to lock up some wheels. With all my strength, I pulled and pushed down on brake levers to no avail. The bikes slowed, and my leathers never got scuffed.
While testing each additional variation—be it simple ABS or enhanced ABS—overall, every system worked as they were designed. I must say I was happily surprised at how far motorcycle braking aides have come and where they aim to go. I used to hate ABS on motorcycles with a passion, now I’m thinking if they can keep a rider with my experience from crashing even when he’s trying to! Imagine the number accidents that could be avoided by the public at large.
Station 3—mySpin/2-Wheeler Apps Exhibition
Starting in 2018 on select OEM models, software called mySpin could be used in conjunction with Bosch’s new ICC display hardware to bring the rider’s smartphone content onto motorcycles displays—in a rider-friendly way, of course.
Communication between smartphones and the bike’s dash will happen via Bluetooth, WLAN, or USB cable, and control over the smartphone and its apps with be done via buttons and rotating wheels found on the handlebars.
The types of functions these apps will cover will eventually be unlimited but there are early adopters like Rever, Genius Maps by Mireo, DASH Radio, Calimoto, NaviRider and Glympse. There will also be the ability to access the cloud and offline GPS navigation, trip routing, trip sharing and route suggesting, contact lists, calendars, messaging, media players, and real-time following of members on a group ride, to name just a few of the options.
A certification process for each new app much be approved by Bosch in advance and each OEM will be able to choose which apps will be made available on which bikes.
I strongly recommend to anyone interested in these technologies to research the above apps mentioned. Each had their own unique offerings, simply too many to flesh out here individually. Colorado-based Rever was a particularly cool standout.
mySpin apps are able to tap into the bike’s own proprietary systems. For example, if a GPS signal coming from an equipped antenna on the motorcycle is stronger than the one found on the smartphone in our pocket, the app can use the bike’s superior GPS signal if it runs the app more efficiently. Further sensors on the bike like accelerometers, lean angle and G-force could also be utilized by the apps.
Station 1—V2V (Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication)
This station proved to be the most profound prototype show-and-tell of the day.
Bosch, along with a few of its partners including Autotalks, Cohda Wireless and Ducati, have been developing a predictive warning system where all vehicles equipped with Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) technologies will send dynamic information into the cloud 10 times per second, and at a proprietary frequency of 5.9 GHz to identify each vehicle’s kind (for example, van vs motorcycle), its speed, position, and heading.
The aim is to alert drivers and riders of upcoming and unforeseen dangers like hidden obstacles, approaching vehicles in blind spots, or when you’re determined to be on a potential collision course with another vehicle. The V2V will improve visibility by digital means.
Vehicles too far away, those parallel to one another or sitting still, won’t send an alert to the rider. Only higher-risk targets like motorcycles overtaking cars, or motorcycles approaching a perpendicular intersection at speed will alert both driver and rider.
Eventually, Bosch would like to become a leading force behind the implementation of Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) and Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) technologies, as well.
We were invited into a minivan to witness a moving demonstration choreographed between our vehicle and a Ducati motorcycle, both equipped with the same V2V prototype systems.
We were privy to Intersection Collision Warning (ICW) and Motorcycle Approaching Warning (MAW) demos. We drove our van along the Bosch compound when suddenly an audible and visible warning flashed up onto a computer screen fixed to the van’s dashboard with a graphic of a motorcycle approaching in a mirror. Moments later the real motorcycle flashed by.
For the second scenario, same thing. We approached a blind intersection, the opposing road hidden by tall grass. Just before we arrived to the merge the warning returned, alerting us of the Ducati before we could see it with our own eyes.
It’s early days, of course. And I’m not sure how we’ll keep from getting desensitized to the warnings if they ever became too frequent.
One of the leading questions faced by Bosch involves how to role out a new technology which requires some 80 percent of all vehicles to be equipped with it for the scheme to actually make any real impact on fatalities? Who will take the first leap of faith, knowing not many of the surrounding vehicles will initially be pinging out its own like-minded heartbeat?
A second question also begs to be asked.
If one day all our vehicles transmit signals which place them on a dynamic digital grid, could this data not someday be infiltrated, or even mandated, by overzealous government agencies, like traffic cops, who would use the data with an aim to enforce routine traffic laws?
Could you imagine living in a world where you’re driving along and your mobile phone receives the text, “The amount of your citation for speeding is $374.”?
Forget that, even if the roads are made safer for it.
Invasions of privacy?
I asked Bosch’s Head of V2X Communications, Christian Cosyns, what was Bosch’s specific corporate standing on the question of whether these upcoming transmitting devices could be used to lessen a community’s personal freedoms?
“We have seriously discussed this question and concern many times,” Cosyns says. “Therefore, to keep these V2X systems from getting misused, certain safeguards have been introduced and insured in the technology’s opening standards before moving forward with potential consumer prototypes. The data emitted from the vehicles is encrypted, therefore it’s impossible to link to an individual license plate or even a person.
“It is also in the interest of the governments that this technology in general contribute to safety. They’d like a reduction in accidents, too. If we don’t have these safeguards to protect privacy, we won’t get high deployment percentages by the public. People won’t accept it. If people don’t accept it or deploy it, society won’t get the safety benefit. Governments will say they want to see people accept this technology.”
I asked next, what about over time? Maybe countries that tend to put monetary gains over the public’s well-being or even happiness could infiltrate the technology?
“I don’t see it,” Cosyns says. “Besides, it’s technically easier to hide behind a bush and laser a passing vehicle to measure your speed. But as the saying goes, what’s not possible today, might be possible tomorrow.”
Bosch North American representative, Tony Szczotka, added his take on the question. “Yes. people are concerned about the Big Brother question,” Szczotka says. “But all the Bosch employees involved in the Two-Wheeler and Powersports unit (2WP) are themselves motorcycle riders and passionate about motorcycling. We ourselves want to make riding safer but without taking the fun out of it.”
Over the past 10 years, V2X standards have been set by the Car-2-Car Communication Consortium, a foundation where many of the main suppliers and manufacturers join different task forces to develop technical proposals which get sent to standardization bodies (non-tech people) for certification.
They all then follow these standards to insure V2X the hardware communicates with each other. VW, BMW, Daimler, Continental, Bosch, AutoTalk, Cohda Wireless, and many motorcycle OEMs have been involved early in the process.
When I prodded Szczotka with what’s coming next, he wouldn’t give up any specific secrets but did elude with, “Connectivity will be the key—the ability to connect to your smartphones, connecting riders to the cloud. That will become a growing trend.”
Dr. Yildirim also hinted that future V2X Bosch hardware might contain, “Further environmental sensing components like surround sensing, radar, and cameras.”
Radar on my crotch rocket, perhaps?
An exciting time ahead
No one can fully predict what the future will bring, but it is fun to guess after seeing these anti-collision vehicle prototypes first hand. I can imagine a world where all our vehicles are so well informed about their surroundings, we’ll start seeing our speed limits grow higher. Or maybe future fender-bender investigations get reduced to an officer downloading the data from each vehicle to a smartpad to see what just happened during the accident, with no need to pull out the orange roller to measure the length of a skid mark.
“The data clearly shows this was your fault, ma’am.”
While it’s fun to daydream about all the positive uses these truly wonderful Bosch technologies could bring into our lives, I just hope that one possible future doesn’t mean an increased feeling of never feeling true privacy. Driving our cars and riding our motorbikes have always been regarded as an activity we do for a sense of freedom.
I hope generations to come will remain diligent when accelerating into the future to protect our ability to break a speed limit every now and then, and have a fighting chance to get away with it.