What are the guiding principles that we can use when we evaluate if a particular technology is good for us? In this post, I explore this question.
This is part two of seven in a series of blog posts on motorcycles and technology. The first part can be found here.
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FEMA, the European organization representing street motorcyclists, has listed four points of policy regarding what they refer to as “intelligent transport systems”.
- FEMA calls for the needs of motorcyclists to be taken into account during the design, development and implementation of ITS-based traffic management systems to ensure that motorcycles are not excluded by default.
- We oppose any ITS which takes control from the rider.
- We support the development of ITS-based information systems suitable for motorcycling applications.
- We oppose the use of ITS for the purpose of unwarranted surveillance.
This refers to both technology on the vehicle itself, and technology connected to the infrastructure, such as smart speed bumps, traffic cameras, etc.
I think these are really good principles to start with. We often see politicians and technocrats make statements about traffic and vehicles where they’ve clearly forgot that we exist. Or that we are more than a noise problem. Our role in decongesting traffic is ignored, and our need to seek experiences on two wheels is disregarded as irresponsible or downright dangerous.
As a society we’re moving towards a world where technology manages more of our traffic through both regulation and the introduction of autonomous vehicles, and we’re seeing a disturbing lack of inclusion of motorcycles in trials and testing. Teslas mowing down motorcycles is just the extreme example of what happens when two-wheelers are not part of the planning.
One trend is regulators wanting to limit speed to the speed limit by making the vehicle slow down by itself. As riders, we instinctively understand that this is inherently dangerous, as any unexpected change in speed will affect control. So while car drivers can accept their vehicles taking over control to guide them to more compliant driving, such features on a bike will force us to stop riding.
We also instinctively understand opposition to surveillance. From a political point of view, freedom loving motorcyclists will always be opposed to anything that smells of a police state. But more importantly, as motorcyclists we accept more risk and more responsibility than our four-wheeled siblings with the goal to have more freedom. Riding with the fear of increased insurance premiums or sudden driving license point deductions reduces enjoyment and also our ability to ride according to conditions and skill level.
I think there is one more principle we should include; technology should never impede the experience itself. For many, the enjoyment and mastery of a motorcycle makes life much more valuable. Anything that gets between us and our experience should therefore be avoided.