Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 18th May 2020

Global company Bosch leads the field when it comes to automotive safety systems like ABS and traction control, with new innovations appearing all the time.

Insidebikes spoke to Geoff Liersch, President of Bosch’s Two-Wheeler and Powersports business unit, from his base in Yokohama, Japan to find out what we will be seeing in the near and far future.

How long have you been working for Bosch and what is your job title?

I joined Robert Bosch Australia in 2005, starting as Project Manager in Automotive Body Electronics. Since 2005, I have held various management positions in Australia, Germany and China.

Today I’m President of the Bosch business unit Two-Wheeler and Powersports, headquartered in Yokohama, Japan which I had the chance to form and develop together with the team since 2015.

Do you ride motorcycles and for how many years? What bikes are in your garage?

I got my first motorcycle at the age of only four years – riding on the farm of my parents. Riding always played a role in my life and since 2015 I could combine passion for riding with my job.

Travelling around the globe on a regular base allows me to ride not only motorcycles but also three-wheelers and powersports vehicles like side by sides on various terrain. To ride all kinds of vehicles from different brands and segments is for me the base to do a good job. My team and I are using this experience to develop new features and functions – from riders, for riders.

Of course I also very much enjoy off-road riding through the Australian bush – but living in Japan I cannot do this as often as I would like.

There have already been official notifications from KTM we can expect to see adaptive cruise control on new motorcycles as an option in the very near future. What else is likely to filter over from cars in the next five to ten years? Will this be driven by demand or competition between manufacturers?

I’m proud to say that brands like Ducati, Kawasaki and KTM will use our advanced rider assistance systems, featuring functions like adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection or forward collision warning.

Looking ahead, we are evaluating various technologies in the fields of assistance/safety, powertrain including electrification and connectivity coming from but not limited to passenger cars following our vision to make riding safer, more efficient and fun. It is important to state that innovations are not limited to components. With our deep software and system competence we are working on deriving new functions and features based on existing hardware – we believe that digital products and artificial intelligence will possible accelerate this in the future.

Connecting the rider and motorcycle with its environment increases riding safety and convenience. For example, we recently announced Help Connect as future technology which is a smartphone-based automatic emergency call system for motorcycles. The eCall, an automatic emergency call system was already mandated since 2018 for every new car in Europe.

Help Connect detects accidents and uses Bosch’s smartphone app, named “Vivatar” to transmit lifesaving information to emergency services via Bosch service centres. The solution requires automated crash detection, and for this purpose, Bosch has added an intelligent crash algorithm to the on-board inertial measurement unit in its MSC motorcycle stability control system. If the sensor detects an accident, it reports the crash to the Vivatar app, which immediately sets the rescue process in motion. This is the ideal solution for rapid assistance in an emergency situation which improves time efficiency of rescue services for saving lives.

There are various drivers for innovation. From differentiation, cost and packaging, to saving lives.

Cars now have various levels of autonomous driving aids – can any of this work for motorcycles or are there too many elements to control?

For motorcycle, we are not intending to realize automated riding – we believe that this would limit the spirit of the ride; however, we can utilize algorithms and learnings to derive additional safety functions from automated driving for example to improve stabilization. In addition, we need to prepare our systems to be able to communicate with autonomous fleets on the roads

Also, if surround sensing components will be widely used and is becoming commodity, it will become more affordable also for other riding segments.

There are still a solid percentage of motorcycle riders who have an inherent suspicion of any electronic safety aids or interventions. Do you think this has slowed the introduction of more innovations over the past 20 years?

Most people who buy or test the system get used to it, feel comfortable and quickly understand that technology such as ABS is not a function which changes their riding behaviour and style but protects them when they reach physical limits. It is the industry’s responsibility to ensure that people understand new systems and their limits.

We understand the importance of riding fun and develop the technology which increases riding safety and comfort without compromising on the riding pleasure. The system supports riders when it is needed.

When do you think the tipping point for widespread acceptance of the benefits of ABS on motorcycles was?

One of most important things which contributed to the widespread acceptance of motorcycle ABS was the right understanding about the benefits of motorcycle ABS and accidents data.

Studies by Bosch accident research indicate that around one-quarter of all powered two-wheeler accidents with injuries could be avoided by ABS.

Similar research has also been presented in the market. For example, In Sweden the number of single motorcycle accidents where motorcyclists crashed while braking, has been halved since 2015, according to statistics from insurance company Svedea.

What’s the biggest limiting factor in motorcycle innovation – costs, finding space to fit it or waiting for the technology to be adopted in a large scale on cars?

It is a mixture of all those aspects, depending on the target segment. The motorcycle market is fragmented and high volumes as we know them from the passenger cars are mainly in emerging markets. Our innovations need to be able to cover a broad range of different bike models and customer requirements to make these innovations practical and affordable. On the other side, space and weight requirements can become a limiting factor for the re-use of components.

How important is connectivity between all or many vehicles going to be for increasing motorcycle safety in the future?

According to estimates by Bosch accident research, motorcycle-to-car communication could prevent nearly one-third of motorcycle accidents. I believe this speaks by itself. For us, connectivity is required to finalize a digital safety shield for motorcycles. We already provide ABS and MSC to stabilize the bike, also in difficult situations. The close and visible environment of the vehicle is sensed with radar sensors. With connectivity we can even look around corners and share data like hazard spots with the riding community.

How do these new systems take into account older motorcycles with no technology to integrate into a wider system?

If the technology is developed, widely spread and actual benefits are also proven, it has a potential to be offered as aftermarket solution. This is mainly limited to functionalities which are not interfering into safety relevant systems on the motorcycle. In addition, we can make use of smartphones. Bosch is offering mySPIN, a smartphone mirroring technology which is supporting a wide range of motorcycle relevant apps.

Some of the oldest motorcycle ABS systems are still functioning perfectly well but parts are becoming scarce. Does the servicing and replacement of these parts offer enough of a business opportunity for Bosch to be officially involved?

Bosch always takes care of the entire product life cycle in alignment with vehicle manufacturers according to market requirements.

We fulfil contracted parts delivery for long time periods. Sometimes beyond legal required time frames depending on the requirements of our customers.

On the service side we support with standardized diagnosis programmes and technical support (like technical information and hotlines).

How can Bosch assist the development of electric power for motorcycles?

Since 2015, Bosch is active in the area of electrification solutions for motorcycles

Bosch has two system approaches for light electric vehicles across performance classes from 0.35 – 20kW: the lean drive system and the comprehensive integrated system.

The drive system comprises of an electric drive unit and the control unit. The components are harmonized to enable a smooth and efficient riding experience capable of easy integration in vehicles with varying energy management solutions.

The integrated system is comprehensive solution that can be adapted based on the needs of our customers. The system comprises of a drive unit, control unit, battery solution and enables the customers to add different connectivity functionalities.

With the two system approaches, Bosch can ensure high performance, high reliability as well as a unique riding experience to meet the demands of the industry which includes use cases like cargo application and last mile deliveries.

If battery power cannot be made to work well enough for motorcycles, what options remain to use other options like hydrogen bearing in mind all of the other limitations motorcycles/scooters have in terms of packaging and weight.

We think that there are several technological options for powertrain solutions for motorcycles, such as hybrid, hydrogen and also batteries too. Each solution has advantages and limitations which have to be solved to adapt to two-wheeler application.

For example, hybrid solution can balance efficiency and performance together. However, it requires the installation of additional hardware, like an electric motor and battery on the bike.

Bosch has now formed an alliance with Powercell Sweden AB, the Swedish manufacturer of fuel-cell stacks. Under the agreement, we will work jointly to make the polymer-electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell ready for production. Bosch will then manufacture this technology under license for the global automotive market.

How can the very soul and appeal of motorcycling be preserved over the next decade of innovation and development?

The main pleasure of riding is based on the freedom given by a two-wheeler, being in open air and enjoy the dynamics of the ride. Innovations are not meant to decrease at all that pleasure; rather, the goal is to provide all riders an additional level of support (safety features, comfort functions, interaction with the motorcycle) that can further enhance the experience and provide additional pleasure. Those will not change the basics of a motorcycle ride, thus not decreasing the pleasure of a ride, but will help all riders – from beginners to more experienced riders – to keep enjoying their vehicles with a higher level of control and safety. We as an industry need to continue to make motorcycle riding attractive and safe to attract also new riders.

How long does it take to go from idea to implementation on motorcycles in general?

It depends very much on readiness of technology and user/vehicle manufacturer’s needs. A generic development cycle can take from two to six years depending on its complexity.

As an example, in the case of our latest innovation, Help Connect (smartphone based emergency call system), we worked almost three years in order to develop the crash detection. It started in the in-house development where basic functions and algorithms were developed. Currently, crash detection is in the industrialization phase. The algorithm is integrated in the software of targeted control units, tested and released for series. During this time frame more than 18 crash tests were conducted.