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Motorcyclists Naturalistic Study Aimed at Collecting Realistic Rider Data

The first rider involved in the initial MSF 100 Motorcyclists Naturalistic Study hit the road equipped with a fully instrumented, data-collecting bike from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute this week.

In what marks the start of a year-long research project, each of the 100 bikes which are regularly ridden in real-world traffic and conditions are equipped with an array of data acquisition systems. The MSF hopes the data will provide a comprehensive, real-time picture of riding and accident  information unprecedented in motorcycle research.

“Our priority with this research is to observe the participants on a day-to-day basis,” said MSF director of quality assurance and research, Dr. Sherry Williams. “We’re installing unobtrusive cameras and recording devices on the bikes so the participants soon forget they’re being recorded.”

The MSF 100 Motorcyclists Naturalistic Study is the first of its kind and is said to be similar to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and VTTI’s 100 Car Naturalistic Study. Sponsored by the MSF and administered by VTTI, the groups say their research will collect the data from 100 participant-owned motorcycles for a year and include roughly 500,000 total miles of input.

Each of the 100 motorcycles included in the survey will be equipped with five color cameras, a GPS, accelerometers, gyroscope, forward-looking radar, machine vision lane tracker and  brake lever and pedal input sensors.

“With this research, (any crash data is) all recorded and sequenced, so the video will coincide with the brake pressure and accelerator readings,” Williams said. “We’ll get a very rich picture, where you can see the input from the rider and how the bike is reacting.”

The bikes will be outfitted with the devices at three different locations. In addition to VTTI in Blacksburg, Va., data will also be collected and collated at MSF headquarters in Irvine, Calif., and the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute (MMI) in Orlando, Fla. The locations were chosen to include data representative of a variety of riding conditions and traffic patterns.

“In the United States each year, the vast majority of riders travel more than 25 billion miles collectively and they ride safely and without incident,” said MSF President Tim Buche. “Riders have not been scientifically observed in a natural setting, and this naturalistic study will allow us to learn from these riders and then incorporate those findings into our rider education and training programs and other safety countermeasures.”

VTTI handled the recruiting of the 100 anonymous participants who will take part based primarily on their age and the model of motorcycle they own. The study is set to track two age groups — one in the 21-to-34 age group and one in the 45-to-64 age group — on seven motorcycle models from five brands.  Motorcycle types include sport bikes, cruisers and touring bikes.

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