Indian Motorcycles filed an extremely detailed patent application for an adaptive headlamp design way back in May of last year, and it was officially published in October. Our friends over at RideApart recently dug it up, and it’s absolutely fascinating. The system uses sensors from all over your motorcycle to provide a speed and lean-angle sensitive pattern of light emission. Having ridden several thousand miles myself in the pitch black of night, I am definitely behind and in support of anything that makes night visibility better.
The patent filing depicts the system functioning on an Indian Roadmaster, but mentions that the technology could be adapted for any other kind of two-wheeled machine, or even jet skis, potentially opening up the tech to other products in the Polaris lineup. It makes sense to start with a Roadmaster, however, as it’s a big bike, and you wouldn’t notice an extra 5 kg of sensors and wires.
I’ve always found night riding, particularly on curvy roads, to be particularly fraught, as the headlight leans and dives with the motion of the bike. It’s hard to look ahead through the curve when your headlight is aimed straight ahead. It’s a disconcerting feeling to ride into a dark corner. By bending the headlamp to point up the curve while you’re leaned over, there’s a better chance you’ll be able to see things on the road ahead of you and adapt your line accordingly.
Another part of the patent includes a speed-sensitive headlight design, which widens and shortens the beam pattern at low speeds, and makes it narrower and longer as speed increases. Being that a rider is so vulnerable to, well, everything, it’s vital to get a longer visible length from your light at higher speeds. If you have an extra hundredth of a second to spot the reflection of a deer’s eyeball, it might save your hide as well as the deer’s.
With multiple lighting elements inside the same lamp housing, this Indian system turns some on and others off to illuminate what’s ahead. That’s an interesting and exciting prospect. It would be even more interesting if this technology were offered as a retrofit kit for older bikes. I’m sure that would be extremely cost intensive, but it might be worth it if it saves your bike (or your life) from a dustup.
Anything that makes night riding safer and more accessible is a good move. I hope that this gets added to Indian’s full lineup sooner rather than later. It would be extremely nice if all bikes had this tech in the near future.