High-tech motorcycle training system puts learner skills under the microscope
August 1, 2007 Those who choose to ride motorcycles, including many of us in the Gizmag team, choose to accept a higher level of risk in our daily transport than a car driver. We mitigate this risk through higher levels of attention, roadcraft and dedicated development of riding skills than are typically displayed by drivers – and rider licensing and advanced training courses are a critical part of most riders’ development as safe, confident road users. Still, rider training and testing typically focuses on fairly nebulous goals and results that give the rider very little concrete feedback on their progress or areas of weakness, so Australia’s DVExperts have come up with a device that brings a new level of hard science to the process. Their Motorcycle Operator Training Assessor (MOTA) unit is a set of sensors the size of a deck of cards that can be attached to a bike to record reaction times, acceleration, braking forces, swerving forces and lean angles to provide a very clear readout of a student’s performance in each testing or training exercise along with their levels of improvement after a day’s training. This means license testing can be brought to a new level of consistency and accountability and we suspect the MOTA’s also going to be a fun piece of equipment for the trainers themselves to play with after hours.
On June 30th and 31st at the 2007 FIM Rider Training Symposium held in Frankfurt, Germany, Australian rider trainers Rob Smith and Michael Stafford together with design engineer John McIver successfully launched a new hi-tech objective rider training assessment system called M.O.T.A (Motorcycle Operator Training Assessor).
Following 3 years of development, the Australian designed and built system ran faultlessly for two days assessing and collecting data from around 80 participating trainers. The fully patented system can be programmed to meet any standard for training or testing and requires no subjective human assessment. Using a minimum range size of just 60m x 40m, the core skills of braking, swerving and riding curves are tested by scientific measurement, using inertial sensors that record reaction time, acceleration, braking force, swerve force and lean angle.
This means that even though the same skills as those tested in the EU Third Driving Licence Directive are covered, much less space is needed resulting in considerably less cost to set up, thereby increasing access to training and testing. A second benefit of the smaller area is that less speed is needed. Most exercises can be taught at speeds of between 25 and 35kmh. This means that not only is training easier to control on the range, but any mishaps involve lower speed and thereby less risk of serious injury.
MOTA consists of a small unit the size of a packet of cigarettes attached to the motorcycle that sends information to a laptop computer and a system of lights that signal brake or swerve responses. During testing, the rider has to match speed and lean angle to left and right curves before attempting 5 runs at the lights that randomly select braking or swerving responses. Using custom built software, the computer compares the rider’s performance with a predetermined standard and determines whether or not the performance fell within an acceptable range. For example a novice rider is expected to achieve smooth and rapid transition to a braking force of 0.7g.
By removing human error and the opportunity for favoritism, the system offers total integrity and auditability. Results can be reviewed as raw data, 2D trajectory view and 3D real time replay, allowing trainers and testers to review and identify rider weaknesses and tailor training to suit either in classroom or on range solutions. All test results and data associated with the test candidate can be downloaded, allowing file storage and ensuring accountability.
MOTA establishes a consistent competency benchmark and takes rider skills training and testing into the 21st century by applying science instead of subjective observation and opinion. Passing a MOTA test is seen as the first step in ensuring safe machine handling fluency, before going on to develop the all important cognitive skills associated with hazard perception in a traffic environment. In addition, it provides licensing authorities with the opportunity to issue licenses with greater confidence by addressing security issues.
“Securing the future of motorcycling means ensuring the safety of new riders. We’ve been claiming that our courses are competency based for years, with no scientific method of measuring the competency or even of proving that any part of rider training achieves anything at all” said Rob Smith, “Riders need basic machine fluency before they go out into traffic so that all their attention can be used to develop hazard perception strategies, not worrying about brakes and gears.”
Besides attracting significant interest from European Union representatives, other countries interested in purchasing the system include Canada, Greece and the UK. For further information visit the DVExperts website.