BMW Motorrad displayed two innovations at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week. A laser light for motorcycles and a helmet with a head-up display set new standards of motorcycle safety.
A BMW K 1600 GTL concept vehicle with BMW Motorrad laser light was derived from a design from the automobile division of the BMW Group. The laser technology is already available in the new BMW 7 Series as well as in the BMW i8, but BMW has adapted this technology for motorcycling applications. Laser light headlamps generate a particularly bright and pure-white light and achieve a high-beam range of up to 600 meters, which is double that of conventional headlights. The safety of night-time riding has increased significantly as a result, due not only to the increased range but also to the precise illumination of the road. Moreover, the laser technology has a long service life, thanks to its compact, robust and maintenance-free construction.
The laser light has been incorporated in the K 1600 GTL concept vehicle as a feasibility test. At the moment, the technology is still too cost-intensive for use in motorcycles. However, it is expected that the price structure will have a downward trend and its use in motorcycles might then be imaginable in the medium term.
A new helmet with head-up display was also introduced that projects necessary or desirable traffic or vehicle information directly into the rider’s field of view, allowing him to maintain constant observation of the traffic on the road, with no distraction. In 2003, BMW became the first European automobile manufacturer to introduce a head-up display as optional equipment for BMW automobiles. With plans of offering this technology in motorcycles of the future, a pre-development process was conducted in which a BMW Motorrad helmet was fitted with a head-up display function. This means that the rider no longer has to glance at the instrument panel and is able to concentrate fully and without distraction on the road traffic.
All displays are freely programmable and include safety-relevant information, for instance data relating to the technical status of the motorcycle, such as tire pressure, oil level and fuel level, travel speed and selected gear, speed limit and road sign recognition, plus warnings of impending dangers. The helmet, which is also fitted with an integrated mini-computer and loudspeakers, is controlled from the left-hand handlebar fittings using the BMW Motorrad multicontroller. This allows the rider to comfortably select the information he requires. The necessary information display technology can be integrated in existing helmets, without affecting either wearer comfort or rider safety. The operating time of the system with the two replaceable batteries is around five hours.
BMW Motorrad wants to develop this technology to series-production level within the next few years.
Hi, Mark Hi, Greg.
Re: The apparently cool BMW laser headlights:
I wrote the first New York Times review of the BMW i8, with the fabulous laser headlights. Which are not legal in the U.S.–or at least they were not then. But BMW desperately wanted us to try them.
I took an i8 drive with the BMW engineer in charge of the project, in the middle of the night, on a deserted SoCal road.
Here’s the problem. The lights (obviously) only point straight forward, so you get a pencil-thin beam out in front, but the side views (where bad stuff tends to come from) are still dark as sin. You get the impression you can see way into the distance, but it’s like looking through a straw—or driving by a laser. Bad stuff can come at you just as fast from the sides as it would pre-laser. And that’s the stuff that tends to hurt.
But the deal-breaker is that the laser lights are perfectly designed to make any reflective traffic sign or Scotchlite panel light up like an H-Bomb test. The little beads in the reflective material shine light straight back toward the source. Which is fine when the source is diffused—that is, from a normal headlight. But when it’s a laser, that light comes straight back and bores right through the back of your retinas. It kills your night vision every time a sign comes up in the headlights. It’s so bright, it even makes the signs harder to read.
I would pay extra to not have laser headlights. I have a feeling that’s not what BMW is going for here.