Wednesday, November 4, 2015

How Popular Will Autonomous Motorcycles Be?

Image courtesy of Harley Davidson
Most people likely aren't aware that Google and a handful of others are testing out using autonomous drive technology for motorcycles. While that might sound crazy, it would mean a whole host of innovations that bring up some exciting possibilities, as well as some drawbacks.

First off, the technology would mean that a motorcycle could ride around without anyone on it. That might sound like a great trick, but it could have practical applications, like  sending a motorcycle to pick up a rider, or letting someone who isn't experienced enough on two wheels make it through city streets safely.

I'm all for technology, but I'm skeptical about how well autonomous drive will really catch on with motorcycle owners. Think about it: while the safety technologies for cars have advanced in crazy ways during the past few decades, the same can't be said about motorcycles. Some might think that has to do with the relatively sparse layout of bikes, and while it's a factor that's only part of the story.

Despite plenty of studies and common sense telling everyone that wearing a helmet saves lives, plenty of motorcycle owners don't wear them. In fact, they fight legislation that would require it in some areas.

Since at least the 1940s, motorcycles have been associated with rebels, people who want to flout the law and live on the edge. That might sound like some cheesy motorcycle website copy, but it's true. The last thing a guy who wants to be a rebel wants to do is get a bike that's loaded with nanny software, that will keep him from popping wheelies.

As an increasing number of cars are outfitted with autonomous drive technology, I predict that motorcycles will at least continue to be the choice of rebels, and might even become more popular as a result. Sure, some will purchase autonomous motorcycles, but they likely will be a minority.

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