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No autonomous motorcycle yet? Consider other safety tech

Last month, we mused about autonomous vehicle technology and wondered if there might be a self-driving motorcycle somewhere in our future. As we noted at that time, we are starting to see advances of all sorts in terms of four-wheel cars and SUVs and even 18-wheel semitractor-trailers.

Motorcycle technology is not moving as fast. Though we did take note of the success of Ghostrider, the only two-wheeled entry in a government-sponsored autonomous driving challenge in 2005, there hasn't been much to write home about since then where motorcycles are concerned.

That should not be taken to suggest that there haven't been advances in other forms of motorcycle safety technology. The fact is that recent years have seen a great deal of progress in efforts to help motorcyclists avoid serious or fatal injury crashes. The problem is that they aren't being adopted all that quickly across the full spectrum of makes and models that are on the roads of Texas and the rest of the country.

Most everyone is likely aware that most cars and trucks on the road are equipped with air bags. They are standard, required equipment. Fewer readers, even some motorcyclists, may be aware that it is possible to get air bags on some motorcycle models. Honda's Gold Wing is one. Of course, it's about the most expensive model of motorcycle out there.

There are wearable air bags incorporated into full suits and jackets, too. They haven't been widely unavailable in the United States. But media reports say that should be changing as of this month.

And then there are anti-lock brake systems. Consumer Reports calls them "the most-valuable motorcycle feature" you can opt to get on your motorcycle. It says fatal crashes are 37 percent less likely on motorcycles with ABS. Most major brands have ABS available on their largest and some mid-level models. That leaves the least expensive models, the ones most attractive to motorcycling rookies, still unprotected.

One last option that might do some good in reducing deadly motorcycle accidents are brakeless deceleration lights. These lights turn on when the motorcycle slows, even if the brakes aren't applied.

The autonomous motorcycle may not be in the wings just yet, but that doesn't mean riders can't be safer.

Sources: Consumer Reports, "The most-valuable motorcycle feature: antilock brakes," accessed Sept. 21, 2015;
Automotive Training Centres, "The Newest In Motorcycle Safety Features," accessed Sept. 21, 2015

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