The practice of lane splitting gives motorcyclists a reprieve from stop-and-go traffic, but it also opens up new risks for both riders and motorists. Ford may have a here-and-now solution to reduce safety risk and help protect riders.
The automaker received a patent for safety technology that will help identify motorcyclists and lane splitting for drivers to help prevent the possibility of a wreck. First reported on by Autoblog Monday, the system uses cameras and sensors to detect lane-splitting motorcyclists, and the tech could even tell the car to intervene before a crash.
Per the patent description, the system would use rear-facing cameras that work with the car's current active-safety features. The latter part is important because the solution could roll out relatively quickly, and it wouldn't take years for the technology to reach production. The system could initiate automatic braking or steering to avoid the motorcyclist in the event it detects lane splitting.
Ford Co-Pilot360 active safety systems
Ford already plans to roll out Co-Pilot360, the automaker's suite of active safety features, as standard on most new vehicles. The system includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, active lane control, and automatic high beams. A rear-view camera is also included, but all new Fords will include the camera as new federal regulations take effect. The first vehicle to receive Co-Pilot360 is the 2019 Ford Edge.
The system could also expand in the future to help self-driving cars identify motorcyclists. According to a new IEEE Spectrum report, bicycles and motorcyclists are "the most difficult detection problem that autonomous vehicle systems face."
Automakers apply for hundreds of patents and many don't often see the light of day. The lane-splitting system, however, is one of Ford's more grounded patents in recent months.