Pierre Terblanche, Freelance Motorcycle Designer [Former Ducati Design Chief]
Fifty years is a very long time. I really have no idea what technologies will be used in the future, or even what bikes will look like, but I do know how I would like them to function. I believe that the various current segments of hypersport, standard and multipurpose bikes will morph into more sophisticated, unified-function products capable of fantastic performance no matter how or where they are used. New-look products will be beautiful, ecological, powerful and lightweight, with automatic gearboxes, adjustable ergonomics, and full integration of communication systems and Internet, along with active and passive safety systems. We will also find built-in 3D video cameras so experiences can be shared after the ride, and all this will come without interfering with the fun factor of riding a motorcycle.
Craig Vetter, Inventor, Designer, Manufacturer
Western civilization has become dependent upon cheap and abundant energy. We like acceleration. We like speed. We like power. But there is a very real possibility that fuel will become a precious commodity in the next 50 years.
In the current Vetter Fuel Economy Challenges, we have learned that a streamlined motorcycle producing around 24 horsepower will allow a gallon of fuel to take us more than 100 miles at any speed legal in America. Less horsepower and we cannot maintain the posted speeds; more and we are wasting fuel. If energy ever becomes precious, this is how motorcycles will look.
Streamlined motorcycles are more practical too. You can sit up comfortably and still be protected from the wind and elements. You can carry four bags of groceries and it's more visible in traffic, so it’s safer, too. The best part is, you can build the bike of the future yourself, today.
On Auto Pilot
Will Motorcycles One Day Ride Themselves?
Google has already built a fleet of self-driving cars that have logged thousands of accident-free miles, and BMW’s Research and Technology group—among others—are building autonomous automobiles. BMW’s ConnectedRide initiative is the first attempt to use that technology to dramatically improve motorcycle safety.
The ConnectedRide-equipped K1600GT incorporates collision detection, pedestrian detection, roadway obstacle detection and weather warnings. There’s even a “left-turn assistant” that uses a combination of cameras, laser scanners, radar and vehicle-to-vehicle communications to detect a car making a potentially dangerous left turn in front of the rider. When this situation arises, a “conspicuity enhancement program” can flash the bike’s lights and sound the horn, or even activate the wayward car’s brakes.
Thankfully, the idea of a truly autonomous motorcycle seems far-fetched right now—there are numerous technical challenges, not the least of which is staying upright while stopped. Self-driving cars will almost certainly be a reality soon, however, and more and more of the safety technologies devised for autonomous vehicles will be adapted to motorcycles, too.
The Legacies Go Electric
Electric Experiments From Honda and Kawasaki
Despite a reputation for embracing the latest technology, Japan’s legacy OEMs appear to be left behind in the race to electrify their two-wheeled products. But recently leaked patent documents show both Honda and Kawasaki have been beavering away on electric superbikes.
With a history of electric and hybrid automobile technology to draw from, Honda has a head start. We’re already familiar with Honda’s gorgeous RC-E electric superbike that debuted as a concept at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show. New patents reveal development of a production RC-E with the electric motor and batteries combined into a single unit to centralize mass, simplify maintenance and aid cooling.
Meanwhile, Kawasaki appears hard at work on an eSuperbike, too, with patents revealing two designs. The first is a full-on, aluminum-framed electric superbike, while the second is along the lines of a battery-powered, tube-framed ER-6. Both use a similar water-cooled electric motor bolted—unusually—to a traditional motorcycle-style, four-speed transmission.
Evidence of this development shows, as many have suggested, that the major legacy OEMs are just biding time until economic circumstances and worldwide demand align to make electric motorcycles a profitable proposition.