By on October 7, 2020

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.

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.

[Images: Ducati]

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23 Comments on “Motorcycles Set to Embrace Electronic Nannies, Thanks Ducati...”

  • avatar

    “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?”

    We’re all human and make mistakes occasionally. I’ve never relied on blind spot monitoring to do the job for me, but having it there to help in case I mess up is always a good thing. That applies to any vehicle.

  • avatar

    > The motorcycle industry has been losing customers for years

    That’s because:

    a) Boomers aging out
    b) Young dudes hurting themselves on crotchrockets
    c) Wives and girlfriends taking bikes away from their significant others because of either a or b

    If you want more people to ride, you want more people to ride safely.

    • 0 avatar

      @stuntmonkey –
      a. Boomers are in fact “aging out” but that is more of an issue for companies like Harley Davidson heavily dependent on expensive large cruisers and touring bikes.

      b. “crotchrockets” are no longer the “in” bike with younger riders. Street-fighters are the most popular ride. I’ve seen more older riders end up in hospital because they are buying too much bike for their skills.

      c. There are riders that buy out of appearance. That applies just as much to younger riders in their colour coordinated leathers, helmets and bikes to Harley riders in their vests, lineman boots, fingerless gloves and beanie helmets. They can be easily swayed by others.

      I believe that the main reason for a decrease in motorcycle sales is a decrease in disposable income. Inflation has been low but wages for many people have not kept pace. Millennials burdened with extremely high student loans wanting to buy a home at elevated prices working in a “gig” economy don’t have the cash for toys.

  • avatar

    ^I think that *new* motorcycle sales are on the decline because of a myriad of factors, some that you’ve touched on. Bikes are getting crazy expensive….I paid almost $30 K ( CAD) OTD for my Panigale V4S, I wanted it and that’s fine. But newcomers can’t/won’t pay that so perhaps they go to the used market where there are a plethora of low mileage, near new machines that have been sold because of some of the reasons stated above.

    I think motorcycle companies need to cater to new riders with reasonably priced machines then trade up to the pricey hardware once they get hooked.

    As far as the onslaught of electronic assistants….some of it makes sense like ABS, wheelie control, etc….blind spot monitoring? Not so much….

    • 0 avatar

      The Japanese companies make many good entry level bikes. KTM just released a 390 adventure bike for cheep. In many instances bike buyers egos kick in and buy on appeal.
      I hadn’t owned a bike in a while and went with a Suzuki DRX400SM deliberately because the street tires would keep me from going off-road too much. 34 hp kept me from being too much of a hoonigan. I now want a KTM 790 ADV R.

  • avatar

    Having two 2020 Hondas with Honda Sense in the family now, I really dislike the nannies even more than before. Honda’s are intrusive and aggressive, I have them mostly turned off or reduced to lowest sensitivity. Lanekeeping assist= off. Adaptive cruise=off Road departure mitigation=off. Forward collision warning= low because I figure that’s one that might save my butt or the wife’s some day. But….

    I had a situation once with our Odyssey where I switched into a left lane with a turning lane next to it. The vehicle in front of me was slow to clear the lane into the turn lane but was moving. There was a tractor trailer gaining quickly on me, more so than I thought when I initially checked, so I accelerated quickly. The system freaked out at the closure rate with the slow turning car and applied the brakes. Trying to accelerate away from a large truck while the car was trying to brake had me yelling new expletives in front of my kids.

    I cannot see how anything besides blind spot monitoring would help anyone on two wheels, they barely help us who drive defensively and conscientiously on four wheels.

    My 17 Golf was nowhere near as intrusive as the Hondas.

    • 0 avatar

      I had that happen with my wife’s 2019 CRV. Vehicle turning right in the right lane and me passing in the left lane and it decides that I’m somehow going to hit it and slams on the brakes. Glad nobody was behind me. Also fun when the system tries to steer you into oncoming semis when the lane markings aren’t clear. Once is enough. I’ve disabled all of it and it’s fine now. I fear the day when that stuff can’t be disabled.

      If I ever found myself not paying attention to my surroundings while riding a motorcycle to a degree that I’d need any of those sorts of nannies, I’d hang up my helmet for good and stay inside a cage.

  • avatar

    I think this is a step too far. The wife’s car has definitely alerted me to obstacles that were not present. Of course, after the car yelled at me she did as well, but still no obstacle. This has no place on a bike where a knee jerk reaction to a false-positive could get you rear ended or have you throw a high side (yeah I know… ABS).

    I am actually ok with a dumbed down version of this where you are gently alerted via a light that something is in your blind spot; but no automatic braking please, let me call it. There are too many variables on a bike that can cause a disaster. Having the bike think there is a problem where there is not, can cause quite the conflict when seconds matter.

  • avatar

    Part of the problem here is there is a difference between convenience items (IE: adaptive cruise), nannies (lane keep assist) and safety tech (ABS, blind spot warning).

    The first one is normally off by default, so if you don’t like it then just don’t activate it – simple. The second is ideally controlled by a customized account setting: so off for you, but on for your teen driver – perhaps tied to a key FOB. These kind of nannies should be easy to turn off when desired to overcome false positives. The last one is on all the time but still should have have a setting that lessens the effect temporarily – this is way most traction control systems work.

    Overall all of these systems should have a fail safe that renders them in the off condition so the vehicle isn’t “bricked” by a faulty sensor. This way DIY types can just pull the plug. This also goes for any of the fuel saving auto-start/stop or cylinder deactivation type stuff. For example the skip-shift “feature” in my C7 takes $15 and 10 minutes to turn off forever by just installing in a special connector.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the companies that care about their enthusiast base make it easy that way.

      My Mazdaspeed3 limits torque in the lower gears according to steering angle, to reduce torque steer. Makes the car absolutely gutless if you’re trying to accelerate entering traffic. But you can just disconnect a sensor in the steering column and both that and stability control are gone, with just a minor yellow warning light.

      The companies that hate their enthusiasts will do things like disable cruise control and ABS, and make noises and light the dash up like a Christmas tree just for wanting to be able to use the car to its full potential.

  • avatar

    I bought that kit also but didn’t put it in yet. I sometimes get caught being within the skip-shift window but not really that often. Maybe that’s why I haven’t gotten around to doing so…

  • avatar

    “Motorcycles Set to Embrace Electronic Nannies”
    The headline isn’t accurate and is misleading.
    Motorcycles have had ABS, traction/stability control, wheelie control and even launch control for years. litre class sport bikes would be unmanageable to most people without them. Adventure bikes have multiple rider modes. Even motocross, enduro, and dual sport bikes are now coming with switchable modes.

  • avatar

    Don’t trust Italian nannies

  • avatar

    Don’t need lane keeping or blind spot monitoring, but having done some long distance riding, a real cruise control sure would be nice.

  • avatar

    With Ducati’s announcement, it will only be a matter of time before Consumer Reports announces to its army of subscribers it will no longer recommend any motorcycle without its preferred electronic nannies standard.

    CR made the same move with automobiles last year and it has resulted in reviews where cars with high road test scores finish with final test scores some 20-30 points lower because its base trim level did not all all the latest and greatest electronic safety features, most notably with Cadillacs.

  • avatar

    I have Honda Sense in my ’17 CR-V and I love it. I suppose if I used it like many Tesla drivers insist on using autopilot, I’d hate it and be terrified of it.

    But instead I use it as intended. If LKAS is steering you into a semi, you aren’t using it correctly, which is with your hands firmly on the wheel, and eyes attentive enough to notice you are leaving your lane entirely. If the car’s pulling you out of your lane, it’s no trouble at all to stay in it (LKAS provides no more than a gentle nudge; it’s not yanking the wheel out of your hands.) Though I have to say LKAS has never pulled me out of my lane; it’s more likely it just loses the lane markings and turns off. I have the system set to give a gentle beep when that happens.

    Same thing with ACC. If the ACC is slamming on brakes for you at any point, you’ve done something very wrong. It’s Adaptive *Cruise Control*, and Lane-Keep *Assist*.

    In short, the system is meant to act like ordinary cruise control, with some following-distance help. And help keep you centered in the lane, but not take over steering duties entirely.

    I use the systems as they are intended: to take some of the load off of long drives. The car handles the fatiguing (but simple) minute up-close tasks, like lane-keeping and following distance, while I can concentrate on what I’m much better at than the computer: spotting hazards far down the road. The computer can handle the moron that keeps texting without cruise on and can’t maintain a constant speed to save their life. Me? I’m looking for that sudden stop in traffic a half-mile down the interstate so I can start slowing down well in advance to prevent surprising the inattentive moron behind me. Or the overloaded 18-wheeler just cranking down the entrance ramp that’s going to force a couple other cars into my lane. Or the flashing lights on the shoulder I need to move out of. Or spotting potholes. You get the idea.

    If this motorcycle’s ACC launches you over the handlebars, you were doing something *very* wrong.

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