Motorcycles BMW’s Motorcycle Active Cruise Control
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ABS has been the cornerstone on which all electronic systems have supported and expanded the safety of motorcycle riding. First to adopt ABS-assisted braking systems wasin 1988—a great step forward. And because of that, the great Bavarian make has remained at the front of the evolution of the technology extracting from the ABS’s highly versatile functionality a traction control system, known as Automatic Stability Control (ASC).
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ASC was soon followed by the more comprehensively capable Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) that ensures a total traction and stability control accelerating on any surface and at any lean angle. In 2019, BMW Motorrad added to the DTC the capability of controlling the engine drag torque under fast deceleration. The addition of an inertial platform fully integrated the ABS capabilities to further increment the safety of motorcycle riding, and GPS completed the system to realize a functional navigation system complete with TFT instrumentation screen and connectivity.
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Dynamic Cruise Control associates ABS with the engine ECU by wire throttle control to ensure a relaxed ride at constant speed that also helps keeping fuel consumption at its best minimum. At this stage the last and most sophisticated addition to this long list of safety supporting electronics is Active Cruise Control (ACC).
ACC have been present in the automotive world since 1992, when a first, somewhat crude “lidar”-actuated warning system appeared on a Mitsubishi sedan, while a much more refined and effective millimeter-wave radar system debuted on Mercedes S Class top sedans. From then on radar-assisted ACC have achieved widespread usage in the automotive world, proving extremely effective in preventing collisions in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Their latest evolution assists in keeping the car in the proper lane by reading the marks on the road. The radar sensor senses the presence of the vehicle in front and keeps constant the distance from it by continuously adjusting the speed by activating throttle controls and brakes, if needed. As simple as that.
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But it is not that simple.are variable attitude vehicles, they lean in corners, they are more “mobile” than cars. BMW Motorrad and historical partner Bosch analyzed the massive amount of variables involved in motorcycle dynamics and developed a system that, starting from the base DCC unit, adds a substantial number of sensors in order to achieve maximum active functionality by positively combining three main functions: cruising speed control, safety distance control, and curve speed control. Yet they also made their ACC more actively interfaced with the rider in the sense that the rider here retains a higher level of responsibility compared to the ACC-assisted car driver.
Fundamental is that the BMW Motorrad ACC only keeps track of the moving vehicles and ignores stationary vehicles. That means the rider must activate the brakes of his BMW in the presence of vehicles stopped in a traffic jam queue or at a traffic light. Primary functionality is that the system is fully capable of actively modulating the set cruising speed whenever the bike reaches the limit of the selected safety distance approaching the vehicle in front.
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A millimeter-wave radar sensor is the fundamental component of the system; it detects the vehicles driving ahead of the bike and the included distance sensor sends the proper activation input via a CAN bus connection to the ABS ECU that then determines the correct amount of deceleration needed to keep the safety distance selected by the rider. But being installed on a motorcycle, the radar sensor dialogues with a yaw rate sensor to determine the bike path around a corner and compares this information with the sensed presence of a vehicle on that path and consequently takes the proper action via the ABS ECU.
A switch unit on the left of the handlebar activates and setsACC according to the rider preference. The system offers two operation modes: Comfortable and Dynamic, for a relaxed cruising mode or a more spirited but fully electronically assisted ride. The set speed, the distance to the vehicle in front, and the setting of the ACC appear on the TFT display. The cruising speed can be selected on a range from 30 to 160 kph (19 to 100 mph), while the safety distance can be adjusted to three stages.
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The rider can override the ACC by either braking or by accelerating, but speed must be reset after braking. Gear shifting does not interfere with the ACC setting. The ACC system sends warning signals in case of rapid decrease of the safety distance from the vehicle in front. A car profile in bright red appears on the TFT display and the rider must apply emergency braking, a function that ACC does not include in order to avoid sudden decelerations that could surprise the rider.
Safe motorcycle riding remains a fine art that demands great concentration and sharp reactions. BMW Motorrad’s ACC can very positively assist but cannot take the place of a competent rider, and has ultimately left the rider to decide their fate—with some important guidance.
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