2/2012

Safer and greener motorcycles hit the road

EcoIST project

Aki Lumiaho (left) and Kari Hanski are both enthusiastic
motorcyclists. They have opted for traditional motorbikes
but can certainly understand the appeal of hybrids.
Lumiaho says that hybrids are especially well suited to
city commuting. Lumiaho, Hanski and Timo Pihlström (right)
are all involved in EcoIST project.

Forget any lingering perceptions of motorcycles as noisy and foul-smelling. Motorcyclists will soon enjoy similar intelligent transportation services as car drivers.

The EcoIST (Eco-friendly, Intelligent Safe powered Two-wheeler) project explores the applicability of intelligent transportation services to motorized two-wheelers. The services aim to improve road safety for motorcyclists, promote ecological riding habits and reduce the environmental impact of motorcycles.

Intelligent transportation refers to the use of information technology to reduce congestion and increase traffic safety and convenience.

“EcoIST aims to help motorcyclists make informed decisions and develop a motorcycle that is wirelessly connected to back-end systems,” says Project Manager Aki Lumiaho from Ramboll Finland Oy that coordinates the project.

Numerous companies and research organizations from Finland and Europe are involved in EcoIST.

Sensors monitor rider’s position

From 2015 onwards, all new cars and vans in Europe must be equipped with the 112 eCall system that automatically alerts emergency services in case of an accident. Although the standard does not apply to motorcycles, EcoIST is seeking alternative methods to enable rapid emergency response for motorcycle crash victims. The project partners have teamed up with Tampere University of Technology (TUT), where researchers are currently developing a motorcycle crash detection system as part of the Sensin project (Sensor Platform in Mobile Devices), which is sponsored by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes.

The eCall system activates upon airbag deployment, but in motorcycles the system must rely on other signals that indicate that an accident has occurred. As an added challenge, in a motorcycle crash the rider is almost always thrown off the bike.

“Researchers at TUT are developing sensors that measure acceleration and collect data on the position and posture of the rider and the sway of the motorcycle. The sensors are integrated into the rider’s clothing, helmet and motorbike. By analysing the data using computational methods, we can pinpoint the moment when the threshold for calling emergency services is met,” says Research Assistant Timo Pihlström from the Department of Communications Engineering.

If the sensors detect a crash, the motorcycle sends an automatic 112 signal to the mobile phone operator that immediately relays it to emergency services. The rider’s helmet is fitted with speakers and a microphone that enable two-way communication between emergency personnel and the rider.

Ride smarter for better mileage

Another aim of the three-year EcoIST project is to promote environmentally friendly riding habits. The test vehicle is equipped with a navigator that finds not only the shortest and quickest route to the destination but also the one that uses the least fuel. The system monitors the rider’s performance and provides instant feedback on speed, acceleration and deceleration.

“The in-dash display unit flashes red or green depending on the riding style. Our tests have demonstrated that positive feedback motivates most riders to adopt more fuel-efficient and economical riding habits,“ says Aki Lumiaho.  

 

Nerve centre of hybrid scooter Hybrid on three wheels

The research platform of the EcoIST project is Piaggio MP3 Hybrid, the world's first mass-produced plug-in hybrid scooter hailing from Italy.

It has been designed for Central European conditions. The gasoline engine ensures range and power and the electric motor is ideal for cruising around historic city centres where noise and emissions must be kept to a minimum. The two front wheels add stability. When the hybrid is stationary, the front suspension locks with a flick of a switch, allowing the vehicle to stand up without a kickstand.

"The scooter that we use is brimming with technology. It's fitted with a wireless communication and positioning systems and a network of advanced sensors. For research purposes the trunk has been transformed into a "nerve centre" that provides information to the rider. It contains the computer that connects the monitoring unit with the in-vehicle data bus system", says Ramboll's Kari Hanski who serves as the technical advisor of the EcoIST project.

 

Text: Päivi Eskelinen
Photos: Marjaana Malkamäki

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