Being visible to other riders is always an important point when it comes to motorcycle safety in traffic. As automakers develop semi-autonomous vehicles equipped with adaptive governor or automatic emergency braking, motorcycles face a new challenge: to be noticed by the electronic eyes of modern vehicles, whether they are sensors, cameras or radars, rather than through the biological eyes of drivers.
On cars, front-mounted radars allow the use of adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking systems by monitoring the distance to vehicles in front, while rear-mounted radars allow blind spot monitoring systems. In traffic, however, motorcycles, especially if they are small in cross section and with a fair amount of plastic coating, may not be perfectly visible to radar.
For this reason, BMW has developed and patented passive radar reflectors that are simple to mount, for example, at the ends of the handlebars or at other peripheral points of any motorcycle.
It’s a relatively simple solution compared to the problem: the Bavarian firm took inspiration from the sea – another place where radar has become ubiquitous and small fiberglass-coated vehicles share space with metal vehicles a lot. larger – and borrowed the idea of passive radar reflectors.
Radar reflectors are already common on small boats, in passive or active form. Passives are simply made of sheets of metal attached at right angles to form sets of corner reflectors capable of reflecting radar waves directly back to their source, and it is these that BMW has adapted for use on motorcycles. .
BMW’s patent application shows a motorcycle fitted with golf ball-sized reflectors, which are simply miniaturized versions of their marine counterparts. By mounting them at the ends of the handlebars and on the motorcycle’s wheel axles, there is no angle at which a radar can be pointed at a motorcycle without hitting at least one of the reflectors, sending a strong signal back to the radar sensor.
Suzuki has already applied for a similar patent concerning passive reflectors, but that of BMW stands out because it also incorporates the protection function for the motorcycle: made of synthetic material and with increased reflective properties, these would be the first parts to touch the ground in fall case.
Since we’re all going to have to learn how to share the roads with increasingly automated cars, even if BMW decides not to put this system into production, there is no doubt that parts makers will soon.