October 15, 2005 One of the sad facts about riding a motorcyle is that although it can accelerate quicker and stop faster than an automobile, the lack of a steel cage surrounding the occupants makes a motorcycle much more dangerous – you’re around seven times more likely to die on a motorcycle than a car for an equivalent distance traveled on public roads. So it’s not surprising that the World’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, Honda, is devoting a considerable share of its massive R&D budget to making motorcycles safer. Next week the company will make two significant technology announcements that will save countless lives in coming years – the world’s first motorcycle airbag, and (much) more importantly, the availability of affordable advanced rider simulation machines for every Honda dealership. Rider training is the key to survivability on a motorcycle and Honda’s groundbreaking development of an affordable rider training simulator is to be loudly applauded. In many countries the simulators will become available in every Honda dealership within 12 months, giving it a massive advantage over its competitors in attracting a greater share of new motorcycle riders.
Honda has long been proactive in fostering rider training as well as developing and implementing active safety technologies designed to prevent accidents and passive safety technologies designed to mitigate injuries in the event of an accident. In many countries Honda’s development of rider training facilities and other initiatives shames the government efforts to protect the safety of their road users.
Honda has long been proactive in the development of traffic safety programs. In 1970, Honda established its Traffic Safety Promotion Division, which became the focus of the company's support for rider and driver training initiatives.
Honda has also developed the Riding Simulator and other original training devices. In the area of active safety, Honda has developed the Combined Brake System and Anti-lock Brake System, applying these technologies in an expanding range of production motorcycle to help riders maintain fuller control over their vehicles. The effort to help prevent accidents involving motorcycles through the development and implementation of safety technologies has always been a top priority for Honda.
Passive safety measures, designed to help protect riders in the event of an accident, are an important part of Honda's approach to motorcycle safety and the company's ongoing research and development efforts. As a result of these efforts, Honda has now succeeded in creating the world's first production Motorcycle Airbag System.
One vital aspect of Honda's motorcycle safety research has been careful analysis of the key statistics concerning accidents. Data from Japan, the US and Europe all indicate that frontal collisions account for over half of all collisions. It has also been confirmed that many injuries result from the rider's impact with vehicles or the road surface. In view of these facts, Honda engineers sought to reduce the incidence and severity of injuries by absorbing the energy of an impact and reducing the rider's forward velocity.
To achieve this objective, Honda decided to develop a motorcycle airbag. In the event of a frontal collision, the airbag is designed to inflate and absorb some of the rider's kinetic energy. As a result, the force of impact between the rider and the vehicle or the road may be reduced, mitigating injuries.
Honda began research and development on the motorcycle airbag in 1990. For the first few years the focus was on basic issues such as the appropriate size and shape for the airbag, and the means of securing it to the motorcycle. In 1996, an airbag system including sensors was installed on the Gold Wing touring bike (1500cc) and a program of crash tests designed to assess the efficacy of motorcycle airbags was initiated. Further testing was performed on a large scooter with a view to refining airbag technology. A motorcycle rider crash test dummy was introduced to help in the evaluation of the airbag, and Honda engineers reproduced a broad range of real world accidents, generating highly precise assessments of injury levels using Honda developed computer simulation technology.
Seeking to share information with researchers worldwide, Honda began at an early stage to present the results of its work on motorcycle airbags at international symposia and in other forums and thanks to this program of research and development, Honda is now ready to introduce a motorcycle airbag system for production vehicles.
Easy-To-Use PC-based Motorcycle Safety Training Device
Probably the most important motorcycle safety initiative since the helmet, the upcoming release of the Riding Trainer will make a considerable difference to rider safety. An easy-to-use, popular version of the Riding Simulator already in use in traffic training at rider training centres in Japan, aales of the Riding Trainer will begin in late 2005 primarily targeting Honda motorcycle dealerships in Europe and Australia. Annual sales in the European region are projected to reach 1,000 units and markets such as Australia intend to put units in every dealership.
Designed on the basis of expertise gained in the development of the Riding Simulator, the Riding Trainer is intended to enhance rider safety training programs at Honda motorcycle dealerships and at other training centers and locations. The simple design includes motorcycle handlebar (front brake, throttle, clutch, indicators), foot brake and gear operation components, a seat, and a video monitor, along with a lightweight frame. The total weight is just 29kg, and the device is compact: overall length is 1,575mm; overall width 568mm; and overall height 923mm.
The Riding Trainer is designed to help trainees learn to control and to develop the ability to foresee and avoid hazardous situations. By connecting the device to a PC2 and installing the bundled software, the training facility can offer the beginner valuable training and the opportunity to virtually experience dangerous situations. Hazardous situations riders are likely to face when sharing busy roads with other motorcycles, cars and pedestrian can be examined from various perspectives using automatic replay, and after each session the trainee is offered printable on-screen assessment, and guidance for safer riding based on the individual’s actual performance (Riding Evaluation).
The Riding Trainer will also be introduced in Australia at around the same time, and Honda also plans to release the new product in Asia and elsewhere.