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Honda Rider-Assist Project Gains Momentum

Honda continues to file patents for systems associated with its Rider Assist Technology suite.

Honda continues to file patents for systems associated with its Rider Assist Technology suite. (Honda/)

Last month, we brought news of Honda’s latest plans to adopt car-style driving-assist systems to motorcycling—adding computer-steering control alongside adaptive cruise and accident-mitigation braking to create a bike that can step in to help in an emergency. Now, the company has added a barrage of additional patents to further expand its plans—offering further proof that at the moment this is a significant R&D project for the Japanese company.

You can read about the original Honda patent in detail here, but in short, the company is working on ways to integrate all the latest available sensors and driver-assist systems used in the automotive world into motorcycles. Those include not only radar but camera-based sensors—both visible light and infrared—and a laser-based lidar (light detection and ranging) array to build a three-dimensional picture of the bike’s surroundings in real time. The bike’s computer can then use the ride-by-wire throttle and ABS system to implement an adaptive cruise control that automatically keeps pace with the traffic around it, with no input from the rider, and can automatically brake to prevent or mitigate an accident if it senses danger.

While that aspect of the system is fairly close to the radar-based arrangements used by Ducati, BMW, KTM, and Kawasaki currently, the Honda setup goes a step further by adding steering control. A magnetostrictive torque sensor on the steering—the same tech that’s used in electrically assisted bicycles to work out how much effort you’re putting into pedaling—is used to see whether the front wheel is following your directions, and a servomotor then either amplifies your commands or acts as an active steering damper to prevent unwanted movements of the steering. This part of the system means the bike gains lane-keeping assistance—with cameras monitoring the white lines on the road—and obstacle-avoidance abilities. Additionally, a GPS system, either built-in or smartphone based, can be used to ensure the bike stays in the proper lane, and it can even position itself within the lane to get the best cornering line or maximize braking distances in traffic by staggering the bike’s position in the lane in relation to other motorcycles.

An automated tilting seat is said to help position the rider’s center of gravity when automated braking and steering inputs occur.

An automated tilting seat is said to help position the rider’s center of gravity when automated braking and steering inputs occur. (Honda/)

The latest patent applications add even more technology to the mix, including a rider’s seat that automatically tilts to help keep you in position when the automatic braking system kicks in. The seat is described as having an actuator underneath it, “to raise or lower front and rear ends thereof,” and can even tilt from side to side in corners when the bike is steering itself.

The patent says that: “the seat moving device moves the center of gravity of the rider rearward by tilting…diagonally upward when automatic-brake control is performed, and minimizes forward movement of the body of the rider. The seat moving device may incline the seat such that the outer side…is lifted when the automatic steering control is performed. In this case, the center of gravity of the rider is moved to an inner side of the corner, and the vehicle body bank state becomes easier to maintain.”

Honda is working on blind-spot monitoring indicators on the mirrors, as is commonly used in the automotive world.

Honda is working on blind-spot monitoring indicators on the mirrors, as is commonly used in the automotive world. (Honda/)

Another new patent application, relating to the autonomous riding system, illustrates how the rider will be alerted to vehicles in their blind spot via warning lights built into the bike’s mirrors—something that’s already common on cars—but Honda takes it a step further by adding the ability to include other notifications in the mirrors, for instance directions from the GPS system.

While it’s unlikely that an entire rider-assistance system will be introduced with all the features that Honda is developing, it’s likely that the company will slowly add elements to upcoming models. Both the Gold Wing and Africa Twin are expected to gain radar-assisted cruise control in the near future, and the Gold Wing is surely the perfect candidate for more extensive semi-autonomous riding systems, allowing the bike to take more of the strain, particularly on long freeway trips.

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