Riding Smart with Samsung

Is the Smart Windshield really smart for motorcycles?

8:01 p.m., the moment of truth: Is this rider better informed or just distracted by Dave? Oh, the connotations of Dave!
8:01 p.m., the moment of truth: Is this rider better informed or just distracted by Dave? Oh, the connotations of Dave!Samsung

You've always wanted to read your texts or check your email while riding, right? Yeah, here at Motorcyclist we just can't wait to stop and get off the bike so we can get back to texting, fantasy sports, and conference calls! Not sarcastic enough? Then let's be direct: Our feelings are the exact opposite. Anytime we can escape a screen showing emails to twist the throttle and carve some corners we take the opportunity. Which is one reason why this "smart" windshield from Samsung is a little baffling.

The idea is a WiFi-connected head-up display that is embedded into the windscreen, which allows GPS information, phone calls, text messages, and other cell-phone data to be presented as you ride. In the product's teaser video, it shows a rider cruising through a city on a three-wheeled scooter, confidently receiving GPS and phone information from the screen as he rides. "More safety on two wheels," says the soothing, Samsung tenor narrating the video.

Lots of you out there are probably like us: You’d rather just shut your phone off and ride than try to combine the two. Good on you. Then again, we’ll be the first to admit that this Samsung windshield probably has some practical application in the market. If you’re an executive at “Major Global Conglomerate” and you’re expected to be available whenever the sun is up, you might rather use this nifty head-up display on a Piaggio MP3 than sit in your S-class Benz as you commute across Barcelona.

Head-up display technology has been aimed at motorcycling for a while now—lots of talk of helmets with built-in HUD setups or universal aftermarket HUD projectors that can sling images into your peripheral vision. But we haven’t seen HUD products really take off. Practically, Samsung knows people are desperate to use their phones, and applying HUD technology to the world of two wheels opens up a new market for electronics companies like Samsung. So, who can blame them?

It also means the potential for people who aren’t currently on two wheels to start using a motorcycle or scooter. In theory, constant connectivity could be keeping people from using two-wheeled vehicles. It’s a silly theory, frankly, but it’s possible. Which brings us to the ultimate dilemma: Do we, as motorcycle enthusiasts, applaud this technology as bringing motorbikes into the modern fold and welcome the people who use it? Or do we turn our backs on the whole concept and attempt to keep motorcycling segregated from the frenetic bustle and perpetual distraction of the modern world?

The HUD windshield is, perhaps, the foie gras of motorcycling. People agree that it is delicious but either disagree with its preparation or are too disgusted with the idea to eat it. There’s no doubting that this HUD tech is sci-fi sexy, but we have to question the motives and the safety. Will the burgeoning, connected generation be less distracted if they can feel less isolated, or is it just another shiny thing to look at instead of seeing the pedestrian in the crosswalk? In other words, is an idea bad when there is potential for disaster or when it actually fails? As motorcyclists, that is the top of a steep and dewy slope.

So it remains to be seen how “smart” this windshield is—whether it actually works to improve safety or tarnishes the purity of riding a motorcycle. We’re testers here at Motorcyclist, so until we try something we won’t say it’s a bad idea. Let’s just say we’re skeptical.