The Association des Constructeurs Européens de Motocycles (ACEM) or the “European Association of Motorcycle Manufacturers” has published a policy paper stating its position on the current state of automated cars and their impacts on road safety. The document entitled “How Will Automated Cars Impact Motorcycle Safety?” calls on the automotive industry to develop sensor systems that consider other road users. ACEM has stated that today's advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) in modern cars still pose serious dangers to motorcyclists.
The risks of increasing levels of car automation mainly stem from the dwindling attentiveness of human drivers. This does not just apply to experimental autonomous vehicles; the more pressing issue at the moment is growing human reliance on present sensor technology used for warning systems, automatic emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control (ACC), etc. According to ACEM, merely adding statements like “The system may not detect small vehicles like motorcycles” in driver handbooks is not enough.
An indicative study from 2016 entitled “Adaptive Cruise Control & Motorcycle Recognition” found that adaptive cruise control (ACC) was unsatisfactory in detecting motorcycles. The test was carried out by the Netherlands Vehicle Authority (RDW), requested by the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations (FEMA), the Royal Dutch Motorcyclists Association (KNMV), and the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) in the Netherlands. Another study by Dynamic Research Inc. presented in 2016 to the International Motorcycles Conference in Cologne examined forward collision warning (FCW) capabilities of current production cars, yielding poor results. Motorcycles were inadequately detected in 40% of the trials; 17% of the time, cars did not alert drivers of motorcycles; stopped motorcycles prompted late alerts in 44% of the trials; and no alerts were provided for stopped motorcycles in 24%. The new ACEM policy paper also mentions that several “autopilot” accidents in Europe and the US have demonstrated that the sensors and algorithms of ADAS, which more and more cars are being equipped with, do not effectively detect smaller dynamic objects, including pedestrians, motorcyclists, cyclists, and persons with disabilities.
“Modern cars do not have robust enough equipment to detect motorcycles,” stated AMEC. “… Real traffic scenarios are complex and the systems currently available are unable to cope with them without a substantial amount of driver involvement. The systems work quite well in some situations, such as detecting larger objects, with a defined or standardised shape, such as cars, trucks or traffic signs. However, the detection of smaller dynamic objects presents challenges to sensors and algorithms, just as it presents challenges to human perception.”
“The car industry is ready to introduce automation levels 3 and 4 vehicles into the market. As of level 3, which is expected to be introduced in the near future, the responsibility for control is transferred, at least temporarily, to the vehicle which must therefore have an observation and interpretation capability on par with, or better than, a human driver.”
For reference, the levels of automation are as follows: 0) No automation: Driver performs all functions. 1) Driver assistance: Driver performs all functions but ADAS provides alerts and partial control of braking, steering, and throttle. 2) Partial automation: Driver must monitor actions but automation controls braking, steering, and throttle. 3) Conditional assistance: Automation performs all driving but driver must still be ready to take control. 4) High automation: Automation performs all driving and driver has the option to take control if needed. 5) Full automation: No driver is required but driver intervention is possible when necessary.
While car manufacturers have made significant strides to improve road safety through advancements in ADAS, AMEC has been calling on the automotive industry to develop, regulate, and validate all automated systems and sensors to adequately recognize motorcycles in complex driving environments with heavy foot traffic, lane-filtering riders, and the like. Instead of being designed solely with passenger car requirements in mind, automotive manufacturers should accept the invitation to cooperate with motorcycle manufacturers and work harder to take other road users and different driving dynamics into account.
In the 2017 ACEM position paper entitled “Detection of Motorcycles by Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS),” the authors shared the following statement: “ACEM calls upon the European Commission to include the mandatory detection of motorcycles in future proposals for mandatory M1, N1 and HGV ADAS. Motorcyclists should be considered as vulnerable road users in this context, as they could be endangered by any ADAS system, which cannot detect their presence. ACEM and its members are currently working with the car industry to develop credible motorcycle targets for use in ADAS testing.”