If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Thursday, 27 January 2011

What next - stabilisers?

Commenter Smoking Hot has emailed a link to a BBC technology article, about new moves to make motorbikes safer. I've got a lot to say about it, but it's late and I am up early tomorrow, so a proper post will have to wait.

When my WTF?-meter has returned to nearer the middle of the dial.


  1. Don't worry - the Americans are trying to make cars "talk to each other". Just imagine if somebody combined the two ideas, and then it got "hacked" as you were approaching a corner in the wet....


  2. "Statistics gathered by Mira suggest that about 22% of all road accident fatalities involve bike riders and it is the only mode of transport which is seeing a rise in the number of deaths."

    Some of this rise is down to the increasing internal safety of cars, making the drivers complacement about the risk to outsiders. There's a name for it, I forget what. But it looks like the riders are getting the blame. Automatic speed limiters? Programmed by people who know better than you? The speed will be set for the safety of the most incompetent scooter rider, of course. And then reduced further when someone still manages to fall off.

    On a related note, I look forward to detectors on cars which brake when a pedestrian walks in front. Nobody will bother to look before they cross the road anymore! And the yahoos will wander out on purpose, just for fun. :-)

  3. This initiative brought to you by people who don't understand why people ride bikes...

    By all that's holy - a vibrating cheekpad to tell you if there's a bend coming??? I would rather eat a dry stone wall at 120 mph than have a glorified fucking satnav try and tell me what speed I'm capable of going round a corner.

    I suppose it's appropriate enough that the system would no doubt rely on filling your helmet with motors more commonly found in lady's pleasuring devices. It's telling you that if you need or want them, you are, in fact, a c**t.

    My wtf meter is currently reading slightly lower than my blood pressure. You may be able to tell.

  4. "Vehicles behind or to one side of a bike can be hard to spot because the helmet restricts visibility and riders must remember to move their head regularly to check."


  5. Joe - brilliant picture.
    Microdave - it's the Blue Screen of Death I'd be worrying about.
    Zaphod - risk compensation, well documented, and much misunderstood by those who would seek to make us safer.
    Endo - steady on, old chap ...
    SH - yes, exactly.
    Julia - *spits on hands, cracks knuckles*

  6. XX Mr Moore said making safety systems on motorbikes useful was "challenging" because of all the distractions to which riders were subjected.XX

    So lets fucking add to them by making bike riders operate an onboard computer, the likes of which, outside of an F-22, has never been seen before.

  7. "It's the Blue Screen of Death I'd be worrying about"

    At COMDEX recently, Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, "If GM had kept up with the technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon."

    In response to Bill's comments, General Motors issued a press release stating: If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

    1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash twice a day.

    2. Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.

    3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull over to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this.

    4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.

    5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive, but would run on only five percent of the roads.

    6. The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single "This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation" warning light.

    7. The airbag system would ask "Are you sure?" before deploying.

    8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.

    9. Every time a new car was introduced, car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again, because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

    10. Oh yeah, and last but not least . . . you'd have to press the "Start" button to turn the engine off!

  8. *Moves gear lever into top*

    Dash display: Cannot change gear, insufficient privileges. Please get out of car and re-enter as administrator.

  9. Sorry - bad week! To put it in perspective, this isn't even (quite) in the top five stupidest suggestions that have arrived on my desk. Allow me to rephrase in a more genteel fashion:

    I would guess Mr Moore is not, himself, a motorcyclist, but even if he is, I do not wholeheartedly accept that this suggestion offers any significant benefits over the more conventional use of personal observation, forward planning and machine control. Plus, I am never, under any circumstances, going to wear a vibrating helmet. Not even in private.

    I'd be fascinated to see some more technical information on this, though - some background as to how it is going to perform real-time risk analysis, how that information would be communicated meaningfully to the rider in time to be of any use, and how much entropy it introduces to the rider's own prioritisation of information. Or whether it will just be "the machine that goes ping": presumably, in crowded urban environments, rather more frequently than is completely desirable.

  10. Part 1

    Part 2


  11. Thanks, Voyager.

    Looks like a perfect presentation of how to demonstrate risk compensation in action. Under the rather artificial conditions of there being only one other vehicle on a nice flat road, of course.

    Elsewhere, though, I still fail to see how the "laser scanner" and "control logic" system are going to be capable of dealing with any kind of real-world environment. Given the limitations of computer vision - particularly with complex or multiple object recognition - and the power/space/environmental limitations of bike-mounted gear, it's almost certainly not going to be capable of much more than on/off operation when there's anything at all in front. Just what you need when, say, filtering - for the brakes to be constantly applying themselves and the throttle fighting to turn itself off - then to discover, on the open road, that it doesn't do anything at all as soon as you lean over a fraction.

    But, hey, you do get anti-dive, for anyone who remembers the 80s. And a vibrating seat, for anyone who doesn't already own a BMW.

    Hopefully, it'll just never see the light of commercial day, because I would frankly pay extra not to have some woefully inadequate machine arbitrarily trying to override my situational assessments. Even if - perhaps especially if - there's one time in a very large number when it might have protected me from my own mistakes.


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