August 15, 2007 Outstanding 3D designer Tim Cameron (of V-Rex fame) is behind the concept dubbed “Motorcycle of the Future” that seeks to outline the ideal design criteria needed for making bikes safer, cheaper to repair and harder to steal. The concept - which includes automatic brake drying, traction control, an accidental tip-over warning device and lots of sensible, clever ideas in between – was unveiled earlier this month by MotoGP championship leader Casey Stoner at a launch in Sydney.

Aimed at motorcycle designers and engineers, the Swann Insurance Motorcycle of the Future concept has been developed by the IAG Research Centre in conjunction with Motorcycle design consultant Tim Cameron.

These features designed to reduce damage are based on Tim Cameron’s “Ablative Design” concept. This is built on the principle of protecting expensive or essential components on a motorcycle with ones that can be sacrificed in a low-speed tip-over without too much cost and inconvenience.

Motorcycle tip-over crash tests conducted at the Swann Insurance Research Centre in Sydney have revealed that design features which prevent damage to expensive or essential components can reduce the total cost of repairs by as much as 40% compared to an unprotected motorcycle.

Good design can also ensure that a motorcycle is still rideable after a low-speed tipover, which is not the case with many motorcycles at the moment.

Key features of the concept include -

Dynamic control technology and data management features:

  • low tyre pressure indicators compare the front and rear tyre rotation speeds and detect any change which could be attributed to loss of air
  • rider-controlled speed limiter function enables the rider to temporarily preset a speed which cannot be exceeded inadvertently (controlled via engine rpms). The limiter can be overridden in any emergency by twisting the throttle grip to its maximum opening to restore normal engine control
  • blind spot warning sensors indicate to the rider whether there is likely to be unsighted nearby traffic, by using side-looking proximity sensors linked to warning lights adjacent to each of the rider’s rear view mirrors
  • traction control ensures that power can be applied without tyre slip, particularly on wet or greasy surfaces
  • anti-lock braking compares wheel rotation speeds and regulates braking pressure
  • emergency brake assistance is able to sense the rate at which the brakes are applied and then increase the brake line pressure if emergency stopping is required
  • electronic brake force distribution reduces stopping distances by directing brake line pressure to the tyre which has the most traction
  • automatic brake drying picks up input from a rainfall sensor and occasionally applies gentle pressure to the brake pads to keep the discs dry and ready for an emergency
  • self-cancelling turn signal indicators measure distance traveled and time elapsed

Features designed to reduce damage (particularly in low-speed tip-overs), the cost of repair, the chance of theft and therefore the cost of insurance:

  • frame rail cover
  • two-piece detachable engine cover
  • muffler heat shield doubles as a sacrificial cover
  • two-piece mudguard with sacrificial leading edge
  • radiator protective cover and segmented fairing elements with cut lines in strategic positions to minimise replacement requirements
  • sidestand angle warning device can prevent accidental tip-overs by indicating to the rider whether the motorcycle is positioned at a stable angle
  • proximity sensor alarm can prevent parking accidents by warning drivers of other vehicles that a motorcycle is close by
  • automatic hill start assistance applies brake pressure when required to prevent the motorcycle from rolling backwards down a slope prior to starting off
  • keyless start & stop improves security and amenity using a proximity sensor that senses a pass card in the rider’s wallet or pocket
  • ignition immobiliser prevents ride-away thefts by disabling the ignition and fuel systems
  • self-voiding labels and microdots carrying the vehicle identification number identify the component parts of the motorcycle, helping to prevent theft and rebirthing

Robert McDonald, Head of Industry Research at the Swann Insurance Research Centre, said Swann was committed to playing an integral role in reducing risk in the community.

“Motorcycles are often designed with little consideration given to the frequency of accidents, the cost of repairs and the chance of theft. This latest research shows that smarter designs and the adoption of readily available technology can make them safer to ride, cheaper to repair and easier to secure,” Mr McDonald said. “Our concepts show that you can design exciting and dynamic motorcycles which incorporate state-of-the-art safety features and are less vulnerable to damage,” he said.

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