The Paradox of Safety and Liability in BMW’s New Motorcycle Concept

Author(s): L. Craig Brown

October 21, 2016

They say you don’t need a helmet to ride this motorcycle.

BMW recently released information about its latest concept bike, the . While it’s easy to expect futuristic styling with concept vehicles, BMW boasts about this one’s ability to keep riders completely safe from accidents or injury.

Leave your helmet and body armour at home and hop aboard this self-balancing masterpiece that can’t be tipped over and utilizes on-board artificial intelligence to ensure it doesn’t crash. Basically, the Motorrad anticipates the road ahead and provides the rider with advice about what to expect and what to do while riding. In the case of driver error, it will take over and make adjustments to avoid an accident.

While this is merely in the concept stage, automotive companies are constantly pushing the limits of what can be done, so expect to see AI being incorporated into motorcycles in the near future.

When computer systems start making the decision for humans, especially when the potential for injury is involved, much legality is brought into question. It seems inevitable that there be a headline depicting a severe injury or death because of a failed motorcycle AI system.

Surely, a computer system cannot defy the laws of physics. If speeds and rider errors cannot be corrected quickly enough and an accident occurs who is at fault? Are riders responsible for their own actions leading up to the crash because they placed the computer system in a situation that was unavoidable? Or is the computer system and BMW at fault because they provided a false sense of security, which went so far as to tell riders additional safety equipment and clothing wasn’t necessary?

Traffic laws in Ontario state that all riders must wear helmets while operating motorcycles regardless of the safety claims of their bike and its manufacturer. Additionally, this technology doesn’t seem to account for the mistakes that other drivers commonly make, and quite often result in the injury or death of riders.

Of course, this bike is just a concept and surely BMW will be asking these questions and more, liability following an accident will be determined in the courtroom.

Hearing From The Experts: Safety & The Law

We asked Thomson Rogers’ personal injury lawyer Craig Brown what his thoughts about BMW’s new motorcycle concept were. Here’s what he had to say:

Although there are a number of states in the US, which do not require that riders wear helmets on motorcycles, all Canadian provinces and territories do.

I expect that BMW would need to have the production version of this ‘motorcycle’ classified as a ‘car’ or another type of vehicle that is not subject to motorcycle regulation.

That won’t be easy.

Having said that, e-bike riders go just as fast as motorcyclists in urban traffic and are not required to wear helmets. In my view, this is a curious inconsistency in the application of helmet regulations.

Surely, it is safer to ride a vehicle with the safety features of the BMW prototype than it is to ride an e-bike at an equivalent speed.

Bravo to BMW for showing us a future for motorcyclists that does not rely on ‘armouring’ the riders of the vehicle to prevent injury.

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