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Will Autonomous Cars Improve Safety for Motorcycle Riders?

Monday, November 21, 2016By Richard Alexander

Have you ever thought about whether autonomous cars could impact motorcycle safety or sales? With the world pushing ever closer to self-driving vehicle technology, many believe that motorcyclists will be safer as humans are less responsible for piloting vehicles.

Two factors are expected to drive increased motorcyclist safety: autonomous vehicles and motorcycles with autonomous features. Many experts believe that as a result of improved safety, motorcycle sales will increase, at least in the United States.

The Insurance Journal reports that the “math is as straightforward as it is compelling.” In an example, the publication asserts that statistics show that the leading cause of motorcyclist deaths involves a vehicle crossing traffic to make a left-hand turn. The problem is that drivers often don’t see motorcyclists. The idea is that autonomous cars, on the other hand, “will be able to ‘see’ the motorcycle with sensors or radar” and either notify the driver or take corrective action to avoid an accident.

Not everyone is clear on whether autonomous cars will, in fact, be able to detect the presence of motorcycles. For example, the Federation of European Motorcyclists, citing the May 2016 accident in which a Tesla driver was killed after his autopilot failed to detect a tractor-trailer, posed this question: “[I]f the self-driving system is not seeing a big truck trailer, will it then see a motorcycle?”

The second factor that could have a major influence on rider safety is the development of autonomous and connected technology for motorcycles. While some believe that incorporating autonomous features into motorcycles will improve both safety and sales, others are concerned that these features could have the opposite effect. They worry about relinquishing control of their bikes to technology. They worry that interventions by their bikes, such as notifications and abrupt movements, might lead to rider deaths rather than prevent deaths.

At least one consultant expects that improved biker safety will lead to increased sales in countries where riding is either recreational or is used as “relatively inexpensive transportation.” That is because potential bikers who have always wanted to ride—but felt that it was unsafe—may take comfort in improved safety due to the reduction of human error.

However, not everyone agrees that bike sales will increase. In some markets, like Europe, motorcycles are used to avoid traffic by lane-splitting. In those countries, bike sales may drop as autonomous technology leads to smoother traffic for all travelers.

If you or somebody you love has been injured in a motorcycle accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at Alexander Law Group, LLP at 888.777.1776 for a free case consultation. Drivers who irresponsibly endanger others and companies that make unsafe vehicles should be held accountable for their actions.

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