Looking across to the snow capped alpine mountains seen from the back seat of a motorcycle

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The End Of Motorcycling

Blog Date - 01 June 2016

I want to take you to perhaps 20 years into the future. You step outside and into your "car". You say "work" and the door closes behind you as you settle into the seat. As you depart your driveway you dig out your tablet and start to watch last night's game, check your emails and catch up with social media. The "car" is driving itself, taking you to work.

The future is not certain but with the advent of the self driving car and the current passion for total health and safety I am finding it hard to envisage things staying just as they are. I strongly suspect that self driving cars will take off because for the majority of people driving is something that you have to do rather than something you like to do. Even myself who is passionate about motorcycling and does rather enjoy driving admits there are times when it would be just so much easier to type in a postcode, lie down and have a nap, only to be woken upon arrival. 

The present crop of self driving cars have to deal with human drivers. This is very very difficult as humans are random and unpredictable. So if every single car was a self driver then self driving cars would be much simpler and safer to program. Just like data packets over the internet the cars would communicate their destinations and could be routed for best efficiency by modern protocols. Ultimately I can see some master system that directs each vehicle. 

So in this utopian (or dystopian) future apart from the occasional hiccup cars would be much safer once the human elements have been removed. Would this really work with motorcycles? Or for that matter those who want to actually drive their own vehicle for the simple pleasure of driving. I guess the self riding motorcycle is not impossible, in fact in a world filled with self driving cars it would be distinctly possible. But...well...would you want to? 

It may be a little exciting being whisked over a highland road but it would be more akin to a roller coaster ride rather than a motorcycle ride. You, the passenger, would not need to focus on the corner as the computer already knows the correct speed to negotiate it safely given the conditions, it already knows there's a car slowing down 400 yards after the bend and is already altering your speed to arrive at the junction when it is clear so you don't need to stop. Damn...when I put it like that it sounds rather good doesn't it.

There's no engagement though and perhaps no jeopardy too. I was once asked a very interesting question - Imagine someone made a super-suit that would absolutely, categorically and definitely guarantee that you would not be hurt if you crashed your motorcycle, no matter how hard you threw yourself into a wall. Would you still ride? Or is the danger part of the pleasure? It is a fascinating thought experiment. I have absolutely no desire to be injured or killed, but then if I wanted to be as safe as possible I would use a car. I really don't know how I feel.

Back to the point. I fear there may come a time when in the interest of health and safety and with the coming of the self driving car that motorcycles no longer have a place on our roads. Bikes will become a relic, resigned to private race tracks and motor museums. There will be a cry from the great unwashed hoards of bikers, motorcyclists and scooterists but just like horses and steam trains our time will have passed into history. 

A narrow guage steam train at the station in porthmadog, walesWill I find myself at the age of 70 reminiscing about the good old days of motorcycling?

Reader's Comments

Sharon said :-
Money is what makes the world go around. So as long as there it big money to be made selling motorbikes they will remain.

We are a consumer society. We are positively encouraged to buy, buy, buy. To be envious of others possessions, to be greedy and want more, more, more.

Health and safety pfft. If the world revolved around such a thing then cigarettes would have been banned years ago and so would alcohol. But they remain because they make money. If our safety was paramount why build 1400cc bikes capable of illegal and death inducing speeds? If we are all less likely to die in a 30mph crash why are not all vehicles capable of a top speed of 30mph only.

Bikes and cars now come with an array of safety features such as abs. Is that really for "our" safety. Or is it something else to sell us, to justify adding £500 to the price of a bike and keep us handing over the cash.

I personally believe that as long as the money train is alive and kicking on the bike scene they shall remain alongside the fancy watches and expensive perfumes.
01/06/2016 02:10:21 UTC
Doug said :-
I think our biggest issue would be black boxes. Insurers already offer "discounts" to young drivers if they agree to have one mounted in their cars - this generation will think of them as "normal". It won't be long before the "discounted rate" gets pushed higher and higher, after which those driving without one are penalised. They'll be fitted as standard to vehicles once accepted by the masses, and we'll find ourselves policed automatically.

"I'm sorry you came off on a Diesel filled roundabout, but 10 minutes earlier you did 41mph in a 40 zone for 20 seconds, which is outside the conditions of your policy and aren't covered."
02/06/2016 07:55:56 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Doug - Yip, the future is digitally monitored and sometimes it looks rather bleak. We're already aware that insurance companies are looking for any excuse to dodge a claim and the black boxes might provide just that.

I'm really cheered up by this thought. Oh well, I'd best go and do some riding before everything becomes illegal, immoral, unacceptable and has the fun sucked out of it.
02/06/2016 09:41:55 UTC

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