Honda is the biggest motorcycle maker and seller in the world, and the Japanese company says that it’s responsible for the safety of all of its riders. So, Honda wants to eliminate all rider and driver fatalities involving its bikes and cars by 2050. Honda claims new tech will get us there. I appreciate the effort, but I’m a little skeptical.
In terms of expanding the range of our safety technologies, since many motorcycle collision fatalities involve automobiles, we will strive to apply our omnidirectional advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) to all new automobile models we introduce in developed countries by 2030.
By leveraging the knowledge and know-how we have amassed through research and development of our Level 3 automated driving technologies, we will further enhance the intelligence of ADAS to increase the percentage of collision patterns covered by our ADAS.
The company says it’s going to try to equip newly introduced cars with the safety tech by the end of the decade. In Japan just this year, Honda outfitted the Vezel (HR-V) with tech that automatically brakes if it senses an imminent collision with a motorcycle, which is an OK start. Note the “developed countries” bit, though.
Because the problem with this solution, is that it doesn’t clear the biggest hurdle to its ambitious 2050 goal, which is that a lot of its riders are in emerging countries, not developed ones. From Honda:
The major challenge we will face as we work toward this goal is how to eliminate motorcycle collision fatalities in emerging countries. In the current situation, where we struggle even to collect accurate accident data, we must say that the hurdle we have to clear is extremely high. However, we have a social responsibility as the biggest manufacturer and seller of motorcycles in the world.
Honda says that in these developing countries, it’s going to focus on infrastructure and government policies. That’s on top of the all-important traffic safety education it wants to lean on, but it’s where I think Honda runs out of steam.
Manufacturers have been talking about eliminating fatalities for a while now. (Remember Volvo’s 2020 goal?) Traffic safety education is important, sure, but I agree with Honda that tech is the likely answer to making riders safer, so it seems like a half-measure to not put ADAS and its other tech on cars headed for developing countries where the company admits the biggest problems are.
Honda knows that in countries like India and Thailand, its riders are at greater risk than its drivers, so it’s adding things like LED headlights to make riders more visible to cars. It’s also increasing the number of available bikes with combined brakes, to make emergency stops more efficient. Again, these feel like half-measures compared to what the company can do with new safety tech in its cars that cost over $100,000 or those only found in developed countries.
If Honda is serious about having absolutely zero deaths from collisions for its motorcycle riders in about thirty years, it can’t be cheap about it.