BMW Motorrad used its centenary year to look forward over the next hundred years and showcase what motorcycles will look like in the next hundred years. We covered that vision here, focusing this article on technology which feels really close to making its way onto every day consumer motorcycles.
Throughout 2016, the German motorcycle manufacturer revealed some of the idea’s they think will not only add to the riding experience, but also make it that much safer. There are few in the motorcycle industry who proudly hang their helmet on furthering rider’s safety. While others rely on sexy for their tag line, BMW Motorrad tend to ride in the safe world of practical ideas. This was seen at the beginning of the year when BMW Motorrad highlighted two technologies they wanted to bring to their motorcycles, laser lights and a heads up display (HUD). Admittedly, these both sound sexy, but are grounded in making riding easier and safer.
See and be seen has always been one of the central axioms of safe motorcycling, and are the reasons BMW Motorrad has continued development and optimization of motorcycle lighting units. The latest push of putting laser lights on its motorcycles follows a series of innovative introductions such as adaptive headlights for riding in curves, LED daytime running light and dynamic brake light in BMW motorcycles.
Shown off at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January 2016, the latest development was incorporated into the manufacturer’s K 1600 GTL concept vehicle. Like many advancements in the motorcycle world, the laser technology is already available in four wheels and on some BMW automobiles.
The advantages are incredible, not only do laser light headlamps generate a particularly bright and pure-white light, but they even achieve a high-beam range of up to 600 meters, which is double that of conventional headlights. The feature makes night time riding safer and may be less expensive than they first appear, the laser technology has a very long service life, thanks to its compact, robust and maintenance-free construction.
When it will make its way onto a motorcycle found in the showrooms is a different question. Manufacturing-wise the technology is still too cost-intensive for use in motorcycles, but should become more affordable as it becomes more common in cars.
Seen in mid-range to luxury vehicles across all brands, BMW Motorrad has its own version of a heads up display. This technology beams important information onto a clear surface, such as a windshield which helps the driver keep their eyes on the road while collecting needed information.
This technology has been seen on motorcycles in the past, using the same method found in automobiles and described above. However, BMW Motorrad’s latest attempt takes the ‘google glasses’ approach. A full-faced BMW Motorrad helmet was fitted with an innovative head-up display function, enabling the projection of data directly into the rider's field of view.
BMW Motorrad envision the display options to include data relating to the technical status of the motorcycle, such as tire pressure, oil level and fuel level, travel speed and selected gear, speed limit as well as road sign recognition and warnings of impending dangers.
A helmet with head-up display offers interesting possibilities to make riding even more intensive and at the same time safer. For instance, an action camera pointing forwards, located inside the helmet, can record video footage of the journey directly from the helmet. A second camera oriented towards the rear could at some point in the future perform the function of a 'digital rear-view mirror'. And last but not least, this technology also enables the visualization of other riders in a motorcycle group. This enables the rider to see where his companions are at any given moment.
This helmet is well and truly in the development stage, so no date has been given of when it will be made widely available. However, an attempt to bring a similar product to market was made by another manufacturer this year and quality aside, only really failed through mismanagement of the company itself. That being said, there are others working on similar systems and BMW is sure to know this, so we would say it’ll be available sooner than later.
Maverick on a motorcycle
Just as the HUD was inspired by those found in fighter jets, tomorrow’s instrument clusters will use a TFT display screen as seen in the F-35 and in luxury vehicles. Not only can a wider range of information be displayed, but it rides in nicely with making motorcycles more connected.
“Connectivity and the availability of digital services are increasingly becoming an issue for motorcyclists,” explains Stephan Schaller, President BMW Motorrad. “New apps and functions via connection with smartphones and back-end services will open up a whole range of possibilities in terms of intelligent networking, making motorcycling more exciting, more comfortable and also safer.”
Aside from playlists and directions, so much more will be connected through a smartphone and other onboard devices. In addition to information relevant to riding such as road speed, engine speed and others, smartphone-based functions such as navigation, telephone and entertainment are provided in a multifunctional instrument cluster and operated safely and conveniently using a multi-controller.
The BMW System 7 helmet fitted with microphone and speakers acts as the rider’s reception center for acoustic output such as navigation directions, telephone calls and music.
Readers with great memories may remember the strategic partnership BMW created with Rever, a smartphone application used in 119 countries used to plan, share and record routes. These features can be brought to the new TFT screens to keep riders connected, even while riding.
This technology is most likely the next to be most commonly adapted in the motorcycle world. The systems are found in many new automobiles and seems to be an engineering session away from being affordably added to tomorrow’s models.
All of this technology is amazing in itself, add the realization this is only what we know about nor does it take into account what other companies are developing. It all comes together to make tomorrow’s motorcycle an amazing piece of machinery.