It’s cool, but it’s not universally safe.
BMW’s Motorrad VISION NEXT 100 is a self-balancing motorcycle that pairs with an augmented reality headset to give the rider an ultra-smart picture of the roadway. The zero-emission cycle is an impressive marriage of smart tech and mobility that looks like something straight out of Minority Report, and its feature list feels like part science fiction.
For starters, the bike balances itself, promising to keep itself upright in virtually any situation, which seems like a great safety feature. The VISION NEXT 100 also syncs with a smart visor worn by the rider which provides speed and navigation information. There are also integrated rear-view mirrors to keep an eye on the road behind.
All of these conceptual features are both cool and safety-minded, but where BMW’s marketing kind of drives off the rails is when the company’s own executives start claiming that it’s going to actually eliminate the possibility of getting into an accident. “Accidents will be a thing of the past,” says BWM Senior VP Adrian van Hooydonk.
That claim, as crazy as it might sound, is matched only by a suggestion from BMW Motorrad’s head of design, Edgar Heinrich. “In the future, we won’t have a helmet anymore,” says Heinrich.
OK, it’s time to tap the brakes a bit, folks. Yes, a bike that balances itself might be inherently safer than a modern motorcycle, and the visor’s augmented reality overlay can give the rider a better picture of the road ahead, but to suggest that accidents are over and helmets are dead is just plain absurd.
The VISION NEXT 100 is still in its conceptual stage, created by BMW as part of its 100-year anniversary celebration, so it doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll see anything remotely like it on the road in our lifetime. But even as we look far into the future, it’s hard to imagine a world where all of the dangers that a motorcyclist faces today—road debris, collisions with vehicles, and poor weather conditions, to name a few—will have been eliminated in such a way as to make a helmet unnecessary and accidents “a thing of the past.”
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