Motorcycles Set to Embrace Electronic Nannies, Thanks Ducati

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On Tuesday, Ducati announced it would be adding adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring to the Multistrada V4  effectively making it the first production motorcycle in the world to receive such features. While chucking front and rear-facing radar onto an automobile has become relatively common, motorbikes haven’t been getting them. Pricing remains the largest concern but many motorcycle enthusiasts have also pointed out the systems may expose riders to unnecessary risks.

If the forward-mounted radar on your car sees the vehicle in front getting closer, it may jam on the brakes to save you from an accident. On two wheels, that same action runs the risk of tossing a rider over the handlebars before promptly running themselves over. This leaves us wondering as to the true usefulness of these systems migrating to motorcycles. Have we gone mad with electronic nannies or is all this progress worth it to keep us safe?

That’s hard to say. While motorcycles can be outfitted with mechanical cruise control devices that pin the throttle at the desired spot, they’re simple systems that are only useful on an open highway. Digital systems also exist to relieve wrist strain, both from the factory and in the aftermarket, but they’re roughly on par with what one might find on a 1995 Chrysler Town & Country.

Despite riders never demanding anything more advanced than what currently existed, the industry entered itself into an arms race. In June, BMW even said it was finally on the cusp of installing adaptive cruise control (developed in collaboration with Bosch) into its touring motorcycles. But Ducati seems to have beaten them to the punch with the Multistrada (also with a little help from Bosch).

Ducati has been cagey with the details but, like BMW, said the system it’s using would be more progressive than those found in automobiles. That presumably limits its effectiveness in emergency situations while helping avoid tossing occupants to the pavement at 70 mph. Throttling up has also been made more gentle to help riders keep pace with traffic without having to brace for acceleration. While we suppose that’s great news for anybody behind the bars of the new Multistrada, it’s another example of taking someone out of the game using digital assistants.

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Speaking of which, the model is also going to receive blind-spot monitoring to help riders see through those giant C-pillars they don’t have.

Look, we understand manufacturers want to sell us things. But this is starting to feel satirical. Any competent rider can swivel their head to have a 360-degree view of the world around them; it’s one of the biggest benefits of traveling on two wheels. Only a fool would rely on their side mirrors before committing to a lane change, that means all blind-spot monitoring is doing is conditioning riders out of good habits and into bad ones. Why would anybody bother to check when they know the bike is supposed to be checking for them?

While this is a massive leap forward in tech for motorcycles, it’s probably an unnecessary one. This website has constantly chided automakers for installing wonky driving aids that don’t quite live up to the hype. Now they’re going to be on motorcycles where riders have to perpetually manage weight transfer while remaining attentive to their surroundings. The only possible advantage we see to this is giving new riders an enhanced (albeit false) sense of safety.

The motorcycle industry has been losing customers for years and is desperate to bring in new blood … and maybe this will help. But the real problem seems to relate more to shifting trends, namely our current preoccupation with safety at all costs, and a general lack of fun money.

Bikes are inherently less safe than the automobile and there’s no way around that. They’ve also become prohibitively expensive to new riders who’ll likely still need an automobile and have less disposable incomes than their parents. While the industry has been working on the cost of bikes by bringing in more versatile middle and lightweight models, installing electronic aids likely work directly against that.

While a follow-up on the $19,000 (estimated) Multistrada V4 seems unlikely  as this is a technically car website  your author will be combing over the details once Ducati releases them on November 4th. It’s worth knowing how this system stacks up against what’s inside modern automobiles and how honestly the brand attempts to market these features. To its credit, Ducati has already said “advanced systems are not autonomous riding systems and therefore do not replace the rider,” which is more than automakers were doing when they started introducing these systems.

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[Images: Ducati]

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