Here's a term almost all motorcyclists run across in their first couple of years on the road: SMIDSY. It stands for "sorry mate, I didn't see you" and it's the standard apology we get when we're sprawled across the bonnet of a car after its driver has pulled out in front of us.
To be fair, while these accidents are most certainly the driver's fault, several factors are working against them. Bikes are single headlight vehicles, so there are less visual cues for drivers to use to work out how fast we're approaching. We're physically smaller, easily obscured behind smallish obstacles, and drivers are often unaware how quickly bikes can accelerate, which can result in some nasty surprises.
Honda is looking into the idea of using Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) to give drivers advance warning when a SMIDSY situation could be coming up.
DSRC is a short-range wireless communication protocol designed specifically to let vehicles communicate with stationary objects like toll booths, traffic signals and railway crossings, as well as with other vehicles. It's likely to be the means by which adaptive cruise control evolves to the next level, among a raft of other uses.
Honda is working with the University of Michigan to develop a DSRC early warning system that can flash a "motorcycle approaching" warning and a series of beeps when a driver seems to be about to pull out in front of an approaching bike that's got a DSRC device installed.
The idea is simple in concept, but quite complex in implementation, especially when it comes down to working out exactly when a warning is needed. After all, nothing would render a warning system like this ineffective quicker than the damn thing going off all the time.
The system is also being developed as an app for DSRC-equipped smartphones, so you can walk along looking at your phone to tell you if there's a DSRC-equipped car coming – that's if, say, actually looking at the road isn't telling you that in the first place. The app also lets the car drivers know there's a pedestrian coming, who's got his head stuck in his mobile phone. I'm not sure how much I support this circumvention of Darwinian principles.
It's too early to tell what sort of an impact DSRC technology will have on the cars of the future, but if systems like this can cut down on a few SMIDSY accidents, everyone's a winner!