What's C-ITS, you may ask. It's not a form of acne, but stands for Collaborative Intelligent Traffic Systems. Basically, it is a set of standards for how vehicles, infrastructure and other parties can interact in real time to improve the safety and efficiency of traffic. Here's a compilation of five reasons why you should care.
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It will become reality, whether you like it or not
As motorcyclists, we love our freedom. We loathe any attempt to restrict our ability to seek adventures and experiences. And it's really easy to just say "Won't let it happen" when governments and big companies try to force some sort of controlling technology or regulation on us.
Unfortunately, we're not a majority, so society will introduce new regulations on how we can use the roads that we've paid for through our taxes. And it is usually better to be part of the planning process to make sure whatever becomes a reality is not worse than it has to be. FEMA does a lot of important work on the policy side of this, and they're working with the industry to make sure the motorcyclist's perspective is heard. Not a member of a FEMA-associated motorcycling association? Perhaps you should consider joining one if you live in Europe. If you're in the USA, you may want to join the AMA.
You will be safer if connected vehicles know you are there
I think we all agree that self-driving cars are a bit scary. Who makes the decisions? Can we trust them? The current technology does not always see motorcycles, or understand how we motorcyclists behave in traffic. On the other hand, many drivers suffer from the same problem, they're more interested in checking their phones than keeping track of traffic around them, and the existence of motorcycles seem to be a continuous surprise to them.
C-ITS systems will broadcast that you are a motorcycle, where you are, and what you're doing. This may allow an autonomous vehicle to give you space to pass, or to slow down ahead of an intersection. A semi-autonomous car may do the same, and maybe even wake up their drivers to tell them that you're there. If this can be implemented in a way that does not track us, it will reduce the stress levels and dangers connected to riding in urban traffic.
If done right, it can be a valuable resource
When riding, we continuously encounter surprises. Often these are pleasant, like a beautiful field opening up on the side of the road, people we meet, or a combination of turns that gives us a feeling of mastery. But there are also bad surprises. Potholes, gravel in the road, accidents, or closed roads.
If road users can report problems and systems are in place that communicate relevant problems to other road users, we can avoid many of these dangerous or uncomfortable surprises. Imagine that your motorcycle had a voice and could tell you "gravel ahead" before you entered a curve. That would allow you to make a better choice, without taking away your right to choose. A warning that there is a problem on the road you're entering will enable you to choose another road. And maybe you could even get a notice that the diner up ahead has amazing blueberry pie?
All of these examples focus on giving you information to allow you to make better decisions. A motorcycling journey is a series of decisions, and we enjoy that power to make them ourselves. But we should not shy away from being able to make better decision, based on current information.
If done badly, it will ruin motorcycling as we know and love it
If you poll the bureaucrats that regulate traffic, many of them would rather remove motorcycles from traffic altogether. They see our beloved machines as a danger to public health, and consider us to be mindless risk-takers and thugs. They also see roads as something that should only be used for practical reasons. Our delight in finding a twisty road is completely alien to them. The freedom we seek is the very source of the problem they aim to solve "for our common good".
These people will aim to use ITS systems to control and de-risk traffic. This means that they will advocate for mandatory devices that log and report position, speed, etc. In other words, they will seek to take away the freedoms roads provide, reducing them to purely practical infrastructure. They will place "safety systems" between us and our rides. For most car drivers, it doesn't really matter. For them, getting where they're going on time is important, it's about the destination and the journey is just an impractical hindrance. We need to fight to make sure that we can still enjoy the freedom of the journey.
It opens up for innovation
I know that, as a technology guy, I tend to be more into innovation for the sake of innovation than most people. But I also know that since most innovation fails, we need to take chances on innovation to improve the world. Looking back at motorcycling, both successful and completely failed innovation have contributed to getting us where we are now. While most of us revel in the beauty of an old Kawasaki triple, we also see that our modern rides are more reliable, more comfortable, and safer. An enormous number of innovations have been made to get us from the Daimler Reitwagen to the Ducati Multistrada, and they've all built on the most current knowledge and technology to give us those improvements.
Interconnected technology allows for massive innovation. But as we've already covered we need to make sure that this innovation is done right. And this is the primary reason why you should care about C-ITS and other new technology. It will matter for you.
At Aware Moto, we're obviously excited about the possibilities of new technology. But at the same time, we're extremely cautious about how we implement new features so that we improve the experience of motorcycling rather than diminish it.