By its very nature, new road safety technology should be good for everyone. I mean, that makes as much sense as peanut butter and jelly. But, look a little closer at some of the areas and some technology could be making the road more dangerous for certain groups: yes, Tesla, we're looking at you.

Tesla's autopilot feature is an easy one to point to, and it's not our first time writing about ADAS not seeing motorcyclists before. But now we're seeing motorcycle-shaped gaps in similar areas, such as front crash prevention technology.

Thankfully, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is finally updating its vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention tests to address the matter. But that only half-solves the problem. Until the OEMs decide to meet the new standards, motorcyclists will still face the same dangers. 

Here's the skinny.

The Problem

When the original vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention evaluation was developed, the technology was relatively new. This meant that the performance requirements became rapidly outdated as the technology advanced. For example, by the time the original evaluation was discontinued in 2022, the tests were run at 12 and 25 mph. And all vehicles were earning the highest rating.

Current data suggests that front crash prevention systems are reducing higher-speed crashes, however, the original evaluation had no way of gauging or rating that.

 

The real problem lies in additional IIHS research, which showed that today's systems are less effective at preventing crashes with motorcycles and medium or heavy trucks. "Deadly underride crashes often occur when the struck vehicle is a large truck, and motorcyclists are frequently killed when they’re rear-ended by a passenger car, since their bike offers no protection from the impact," says IIHS Senior Research Scientist David Kidd. 

That's, obviously, a problem that needs to be solved quickly.

The Solution?

Simply put, the solution is a tougher test. The updated test includes trial runs at 31, 37, and 43 mph. And not just using passenger car targets, as the latest iteration of the test also examines how the technology performs with a motorcycle target and a semitrailer.

After introducing the new evaluation parameters, only one vehicle revived a "good" rating: the 2023-24 Subaru Forester.

“This is a vital update to one of our most successful test programs,” IIHS President David Harkey said. “The vast majority of new vehicles now come with automatic emergency braking, and our research shows the technology prevents as many as half of all front-to-rear crashes. This new, tougher evaluation targets some of the most dangerous front-to-rear crashes that are still happening.” 

The new IIHS evaluation would be the perfect solution to an extremely dangerous problem if the OEMs worked toward meeting the new higher safety standards. Unfortunately, in my opinion, unless OEMs are forced to pass the new IIHS tests to a high standard or a low rating regarding sensing motorcyclists hurts sales (unlikely in my opinion), I don't see them making the changes necessary.

The vast majority of vehicles tested received sub-par scores, and as someone who only uses a motorcycle as their means of transport, that's terrifying.

I already get a squeaky bum moment every time I need to perform an emergency stop, worrying that the driver behind me won't stop in time. Now that drivers are relying more and more on advanced braking technology, this problem becomes even worse, as most probably won't know how poorly it performs when the object in front is a motorcycle. 

Check out the IIHS website to see what vehicles you should feel extra cautious about when riding in front of. 

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