Motorcycle manufacturers may soon have to install “Intelligent Speed Assistance” (ISA) in new motorcycles sold in the European Union.  The measure is now under consideration by the European Parliament.  Back in August, we told you about the EU’s requirement for automakers to install ISA in automobiles starting in 2022.

Back then, it was not clear whether ISA would be required for motorcycles.  But now, the European Parliament is discussing options for introducing the technology in motorcycles as well.  All of this is in the name of the EU’s “Vision Zero” road safety policy framework.  Vision Zero aims to halve the number of road deaths by 2030.

If you are not familiar with ISA, it is a system that alerts drivers/riders when they travel over the posted speed limit.  The system uses cameras or GPS data to make notification decisions.  If it detects you are traveling over the posted limit, it automatically reduces power.  Nonetheless, if the ISA activates, accelerating over the speed limit is still possible.  However, audible and or tactile (vibration) alarms will sound until the vehicle’s speed returns to the posted limit.

As background, on October 5, 2021, the European Parliament adopted a draft report of the Member of European Parliament (MEP) Elena Kountoura by a large majority of votes.  The report outlines several measures that purport to enhance road safety in Europe.

MEP position

The British Motorcyclists Federation quotes Kountoura as saying:

“For far too long, Europeans have had to live with an unacceptable death toll on our roads. It is realistic to aim to halve road deaths by 2030, if the EU and member states commit to better road safety, coupled with strong political will and sufficient funding. We already know what kills on the road, therefore we are calling on the Commission and governments to apply specific life-saving measures to support these efforts, such as lower speed limits, especially creating a default limit of 30 km/h for cities, an accelerated modal shift to other forms of transport, and a new European Agency for Road Transport.”

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EP rapporteur Elena Kountoura. Photo credit: EP

But there’s more to the report than what Kountoura says above.  In general, the European Parliament sees a large portion of the proposed road safety in the change to active mobility (walking and cycling) and public transport.  That means fewer motorcycles and automobiles.  The other measures are “enhancements” to motorcycle and automobile requirements.

So what are the measures that affect motorized cyclists?  In summary, they are as follows:

  • A requirement for manufacturers to install Intelligent Speed Assistance in new motorcycles.
  • A requirement for manufacturers to install anti-lock brake systems (ABS) in all motorcycles.
  • All motorcycles must have eCall, an automated emergency dialing system in the event of a crash.
  • A European Commission assessment to decide whether to make theoretical and practical training and tests mandatory to obtain a license for all categories of powered two-wheelers.

So the landscape is firming up around powered two-wheelers in the EU.  And the proposals seem to be pretty far-reaching. However, while the EU government seems set to implement these requirements, others are not so excited by all the proposed measures.

Objections to ISA

The Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations is an organization that has reservations about some of the proposals.  FEMA’s General Secretary Dolf Willingers said that the Association welcomes the report saying:

 “We welcome this report and almost all measures that are proposed by the Parliament. In a letter to the European Commission earlier this year we already asked for the inclusion of powered two-wheelers in the Key Performance Indicators, better training, driving license tests that are more tailored to risk assessment and risk avoidance instead of low-speed technical skills and safer infrastructure. These are demands that are also in the report of the parliament.”

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FEMA’s General Secretary Dolf Willigers. Photo credit: Dolf Willigers

The Association seems to be saying that they agree with parts of the report.  However, they also voiced their concerns about ISA in particular.  Key to their objection is the potential for taking control of the motorcycle away from the rider.

“We do not support any technical features that take away the control of the motorcycle from the rider and therefore – although we understand the need to reduce speed in certain situations – we see any kind of Intelligent Speed Assistance that interferes with engine control as a danger for motorcyclists, as we have already discussed with the European Commission in 2019. The Commission agreed with us that you cannot just fit ISA on motorcycles.”

European Commission response

The new report and potential adoption of ISA seem to be at odds with a letter penned by Matthew Baldwin, the Deputy Director-General for Mobility and Transport.  In response to a FEMA letter, Baldwin responded in writing saying:

“You mention some information circulating in the media to the effect that Intelligent
Speed Assistance will be required for motorcycles. This is certainly not true. As you are
aware, motorcycles are not within the scope of the General Safety Regulation and the
Pedestrian Safety Regulation. Safety requirements for L-category vehicles, including
motorcycles, are established in a separate regulation.”

And he added:

In any case, I can reassure you that there are currently no plans to amend the applicable technical requirements for the type-approval of motorcycles. The Commission is due to report to the European Parliament and to the Council on its implementation by the end of 2021, an in particular on the need of an EU type-approval of small series. Based on this report, the Commission could decide to propose a review of Regulation (EU) No 168/2013, but I can only tell you that at this stage, we have no plans to do so

ISA door left ajar

While that statement seems to close the door on ISA for motorcycles, it didn’t slam it shut.  Baldwin’s letter also noted:

“Even if the Commission were eventually to make a proposal making, ISA systems mandatory for motorcycles, this would require an impact assessment and a cost-benefit analysis. This evaluation would take into account the specificities and needs of these vehicles and the paramount need for the safety of riders, as for all road users, as well as the results of a full public consultation and stakeholder engagement. The views of motorcyclists would of course be fully taken into account in any such consultation and legislative process.”

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Motorcycles may soon be required to have ISA.

Backtracking

Although Baldwin said that there were no plans for requiring motorcycle ISA, it seems that the EU has done an about face and is once again discussing its implementation in motorcycles.

What do you think?

What do you think about the European Commission’s report?  And particularly, what do you think about the requirement for ISA on motorcycles?  Is ISA a good idea whose time has come, or something else?  Let everyone know what you think about ISA for motorcycles in the comments below.

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