MotoGP boosts road safety

Ducati's working on new tech that could save hundreds of lives

Unified electronics and rider aids have provided one of the biggest shake-ups in recent years in MotoGP. Teams have invested millions of dollars in development and they have changed the competitive order on track.

Many of those technological advancements have made their way onto the road, with anti-wheelie, traction control, inertial measurement units ABS, and quick shifting commonplace on modern ’bikes. Sam Sunderland, 2017 Dakar winner, told us in a recent podcast that the KTM he rides through the desert is effectively the same as those sold to the consumer – albeit a little more reinforced…

The same can be said for road cars, where the driver has become more and more reliant on the machine courtesy of lane assist, cruise control, auto parking, auto braking.

Now, as they have been doing in MotoGP with winglets and so much more, Ducati is leading the next advancement on the bike front: radars.

The Italian company, part of the Volkswagen Group, had already outlined its ‘Safety Road Map 2025’ and introduced elements such as cornering ABS, which does what it says on the Bosch tin. Braking grip is managed throughout the corner, “effectively ruling out the risk of falling during the delicate corner-entry phase”, Bosch says. That’s already found its way onto the road on the top-of-the-range 1100 Scrambler ’bike.

The premise of the next step, which is already in motion, is simple enough. With front and rear-facing radar, the rider is made aware of what is surrounding the bike, even in previously blind spots.

The front-facing radars will also manage an adaptive cruise control, keeping the ’bike at a rider-defined distance from whatever’s in front. Plus, it will be a second pair of eyes for distracted riders and will notify the rider of any impending head-on crashes.

The rearward-facing camera will do likewise from behind, making the rider more aware and safer than ever.

Milan University has been involved with the development alongside Ducati’s own engineers since 2016, and last May a patent was filed. The first ’bike expected to feature the radars is set to be released in 2020.

Some independent tech companies have been taking things further still and investigating riderless motorbike technology, with some success.

Yamaha has already experimented with a riderless ’bike, or at least robot-ridden ’bike, with its ‘Motobot’ project. Valentino Rossi raced it around Thunderhill last year, the Italian lapping the two-mile circuit 30sec faster than the Motobot.

So there’s a long way to go for riderless racing, if there even is room for such a thing when you consider that the human astride the motorbike is so intrinsically part of the show. But a future with almost un-crashable ’bikes? That’s getting far closer.