These New Radar Technologies Are Making Motorcycling Safer

Key Takeaways

  • Motorcycle radar tech is being used to make motorcycles appear larger and improve safety features like active cruise control. It helps detect vehicles in front and automatically slows down the motorcycle when there is a closing gap.
  • There is a need for radar in motorcycles to prevent cars from crashing into them unintentionally. Current Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) in cars can increase risks for motorcyclists, so radar technology aims to improve detection and make roads safer.
  • Radar reflectors can be placed on motorcycles to enhance ADAS detection. Newer motorcycles also have rear-facing radar to warn of approaching vehicles. Motorcycle radar systems are being developed to provide warning signals to riders instead of taking control of throttle and brakes.

For years, motorcycles and radar were only used in real life by the men in blue to detect speeders and slap on fines. Today, things are different. The way frogs puff up their throats or elephants spread their ears to appear bigger than they are, motorcycle makers are trying to achieve the same.

New radar tech in motorcycles uses all the tricks in the book to make motorcycles appear bigger than they are, a must in today’s world of vehicles with partial autonomous functions. From Honda and BMW to Harley-Davidson, motorcycle radar tech is now finding homes in almost all bikes and scooters. Together with other safety tech, it is dubbed ARAS, as in Advanced Rider Assistance Systems.

With most car and other vehicle radars erring by not spotting motorcycles, it raises concerns in the motorcycling world, enough for the AMA also to raise valid points. So, here’s what we know about new radar technologies in motorcycling to make the roads safer for all motorcyclists and other vehicles.


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What Is The Need For Radars In Motorcycles?

The first use of radar in motorcycles is rather obvious, and everything has to do with all the sensor-controlled rider safety aids in the bike. When it comes to active cruise control, an added win in tourer motorcycles, the radar on a motorcycle measures how far ahead the vehicle in front is. Once it deduces a closing gap, it automatically applies light brakes to slow you down. Once the object lane changes, the speed is back up.

The second use is more for the motorcycle’s safety and preventing cars from crashing into it inadvertently. This poses a much bigger risk. In fact, as per the AMA, a 2022 study released by an industry-led group, the Connected Motorcycle Consortium (CMC), suggested that most Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) installed in cars increase risks for motorcyclists. Spurred by the glut of self-driving technology on the roads, there is an increased and urgent need to make motorcyclists and other vulnerable road users safer.

While the study also aims to tighten ADAS research and hone better focus on detecting smaller traffic like pedestrians, bicyclists, and other four-wheeled traffic, the focus, of course, is motorcycles. As per the report’s findings, drivers’ attention to driving lessens as they become more reliant on ADAS. While ADAS may lower collisions of cars with cars or bigger vehicles, it may increase car and motorcycle collisions. Another issue is that the current technology may detect the presence of a motorcycle on the road a little too late, reducing the reaction time of both man and machine.

Pros of using radars in motorcycles:

  • It can help with rider safety and comfort by using radar-based active cruise control.
  • It can also aid radar systems in cars to detect the presence of motorcycles better.


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How Does Radar Tech Make Roads Safer For Motorcyclists?

Yamaha Tracer 9 GT+ radar technology in action
Global Yamaha

The current radar-detection systems have a sonar-like system that needs more fine-tuning. Currently, it’s either set too low, able to detect larger objects like cars, or set too high, thus unable to distinguish motorcycles from small, irrelevant obstructions. The same goes for camera-based ADAS systems that err in reading two sets of lights at staggered distances as one set.

To put it concisely, radar systems need an overhaul to focus on motorcycle safety as keenly as they do on cars. While automakers are doing precisely that, given that the American government is shifting the onus of any autopilot crashes onto the carmakers, motorcycle radar systems are developing at a fast pace as well.

The CMC study concluded that most motorcycles should consider radar reflectors for better ADAS detection. Placing radar reflectors at the end of the handlebars, axles, mirrors, or near the indicators and the front fender helps bounce back a strong signal to sensor-based ADAS. This betters the chances of the ADAS reading the motorcycle’s presence better, making roads safer for all.

Many newer motorcycles also have a rear-facing radar that can warn a motorcyclist if a vehicle approaches rapidly from behind. A simple lane change can help the motorcyclist avoid crashes, especially if the rear vehicle’s ADAS malfunctions. An example is the rear radar on the Triumph Tiger 1200 Rally motorcycle for blind spot detection.


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New-Gen Motorcycles Come With Radar Tech As Part Of Rider Safety Aids

Vayyar Motorcycle Radar On Piaggio MP3

A slew of motorcycles, including the Ducati Multistrada, the Honda Gold Wing, and the BMW R 1250 RT, come with radar detectors and other sophisticated motorcycle safety tech. These active radar systems provide cruise control and other safety features.

What makes the motorcycle radar system work differently from those installed in cars and other four-wheeled vehicles is that it’s perfectly fine to have cars take over the throttle and brakes and even slam down to a halt if need be. If a motorcycle radar behaved as brashly, the motorcycle and the rider would likely crash. Instead of the motorcycle taking over, it’s better for a warning to appear on the TFT to attract the rider’s attention and have them take the required evasive maneuvers. Of course, the warning has to be flashy enough to warrant quick attention.

Another thing that needs to be considered is that motorcycles lean quite a bit, so the bike’s onboard computer needs to be fine-tuned enough to make a learned decision between the road and an object on the road and accordingly ignore all false signals.

Cons of motorcycle radar technology:

  • It cannot allow machines to take over braking as cars can, lest the motorcycle tip over or crash.
  • It has to discount the road at sharp, lean angles to avoid erroneous warnings.


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Key Players In Motorcycle Radar Tech

While many motorcycle companies are developing their radar, several other players in the market are tying up with motorcycle manufacturers to make riding safer for all.

Leading radar tech providers:

  • Israel’s Vayyar claims to have developed a radar with the largest number of antennas for increased sensitivity. Piaggio is one of its first customers and plans to use the same not just for its motorcycles, like Aprilia and Moto Guzzi, but later also for its scooters, like Vespa.
  • Bosch’s radar systems (explained in the video above) are the most widely used to date, with motorcycle brands like Yamaha, Ducati, BMW, KTM, and Kawasaki using the same. Kawasaki added Bosch radar tech to the Ninja H2 range to begin with. As opposed to Vayyar’s 300m vision on debut, Bosch offered only 160 but, with more competition, has increased it to match.
  • Other motorcycle brands like Honda, Harley-Davidson, BMW Motorrad, and Suzuki have not only developed their radars but also filed patents for the same and run on the same lines as the competition.

As long as you decide to get radar on your motorcycles, the OEM does not matter. All that matters is that you, as a rider, are as invested in your safety as the makers of your steed.

Sources: BMW, YouTube channel Bosch Mobility, American Motorcyclist Association


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