Automotive blind spot detection systems seem like steps in the right direction safety-wise, don’t they? Opinions about drivers not paying attention to what’s going on around them aside, anything that helps reduce collisions, injuries, and deaths seems like a great idea. As more adaptive radar systems roll out in more vehicles, one question remains: How do you get them to see bikes?  

Piaggio has at least one idea up its sleeve to help get bikes seen, and it’s the subject of a recent patent application filed in both Italy and the U.S. (filed in Italy in 2018, filed in the U.S. in 2019, and published in the U.S. in January, 2022). Active radar reflector systems on motorbikes, the company believes, could just be an important solution. 

The problem, as Piaggio sees it, is that the radar systems currently in use don’t always see narrow-profile vehicles—like motorbikes—as quickly as is necessary to avoid calamity. This is due to multiple factors. For one thing, bikes are typically physically smaller, and offer a much smaller target for radars to detect. Crucially, bikes also tend to change position inside a given lane in ways that cars or trucks simply don’t. These two factors combined can make accurate and timely blind spot detection of bikes more difficult for the systems that are currently available in 2022. 

Gallery: Piaggio Radar Reflector Patent Application

As detailed in this application, Piaggio’s active radar reflector system could be used at the front, rear, and/or sides of a given motorbike. Ideally, the application says, it would be used on all four sides, to ensure the greatest possible broadcast of the motorbike’s exact whereabouts to surrounding vehicles. It could also be integrated into existing structures, such as head or taillight units, or reflectors. Importantly, while it could of course be installed from the factory in new bikes, it could also be made available as an accessory that riders could purchase for installation on older models. 

Where does the “active” part come into play? Piaggio envisions this radar reflector system not only being able to say “hey, there’s a scooter in your left rear blind spot,” but also being able to relay what kind of movement the scooter is making, as well as at what angle. Motorbikes use the road differently than cars—cars typically don’t lean while going through corners, for example. This system would actively transmit that movement information to surrounding vehicles with blind spot detection enabled, giving them a clearer picture of what’s happening right this second. 

It’s also worth noting that while this patent application is for an active radar reflector system, it also makes mention of possible integration into a radar system of Piaggio’s own—perhaps for its own adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection, and similar modern safety and convenience considerations. Naturally, if both an active radar reflector and active radar system were integrated, they could use much of the same wiring and signals, and be a single multi-function unit in order to keep everything as simple as possible. 

Finally, although Piaggio’s patent application drawings all seem to depict a BV 350 scooter, the company of course envisions such a system in place on both scooters and motorcycles. After all, in addition to Piaggio-branded scooters, it’s also the parent company of Vespa, Aprilia, and Moto Guzzi. How soon will we see such systems in use on the Piaggio family of motorbikes? It’s too soon to say, of course, but it’s an interesting glimpse into what seems like a sensible plan for the future.

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