We’ve expected for some time that radar-adaptive cruise control is coming to the Honda Gold Wing. In June, 2022, patent applications published by the German patent office give quite a bit more insight into how the system is intended to work. As it turns out, Honda wants to bring a whole lot of rider-assistive features to its two-wheeled vehicles—and probably not just the Gold Wing.
To be clear, the patent drawings in these applications use a Gold Wing as the example vehicle. However, language further down in each application clearly states that although their example vehicle has a large fairing behind which to hide the control unit (and other integral parts of the system, which we’ll get to in a moment), it could also be used for scooters, electric bicycles, or other step-through two-wheeled vehicles.
As the applications spell out, Honda’s advanced rider assist system (ARAS) integrates a number of technologies (existing motorcycle sensors, camera, radar, and LIDAR) to perform a number of assistive functions. There is, of course, the much-talked-about radar adaptive cruise control. There’s also blind spot detection, which tends to go hand-in-hand with many radar adaptive cruise control implementations.
To Honda’s way of thinking, an automatic driving and/or steering system (which is kind of what’s already indicated by the radar adaptive cruise control) could also involve a lane-keeping assistance system, as well as something called “tumble suppression assistance torque.”
Wait, what? According to the details of that last feature, the controller would use available IMU sensor data to determine whether a vehicle’s leaning motion is intentional, such as when a rider shifts their weight to steer through a corner. If it determines that the vehicle is really falling, rather than intentionally leaning, the system will act to stabilize the bike and keep it upright.
Now, obviously, we can’t help but wonder if any of the research Honda has clearly been doing with its self-balancing motorbikes has found its way into these patents. We might never know for sure, but the clear progression of Honda’s self-balancing technology certainly lends weight to that theory.
That’s only one piece of the puzzle, however. Honda also cites a collision mitigation brake system, a three-stage lane departure warning, and a blind spot information system as parts of the overall ARAS array. The lane departure warning proposed here would use carefully calibrated vibrations (that don’t feel like those from either the wheels or the engine) to get the message through to the rider. The blind spot information system would use flags in the rider’s rearview mirrors to warn them of possible dangers—something that’s becoming more common in bikes in recent time.
This is, of course, undoubtedly all part of Honda’s company-wide plan to get down to zero collision fatalities by 2050, as the company boldly announced in late 2021. Together with Honda’s Sensing 360 and Safe and Sound technologies, these are just some of the ways Honda is attempting to mitigate the propensity for human error with technology. Will it work? We certainly can’t say at this point, but we can say that it has to come to market and have the inevitable kinks present in all first-gen technologies ironed out first.