Indian Is Developing A Next-Gen Radar System

New tech features three radars, six cameras, and haptic feedback.

Diagram: Indian Motorcycle's latest patent reveals an innovative radar and camera assist system for future models, shown on what looks to be a trunk-less Roadmaster variant.

Radar is fast becoming the must-have tech for bike manufacturers, with Ducati, KTM, and BMW already showing workable units and a host of others rushing to catch up. But Indian Motorcycle is poised to leapfrog the competition with a setup that combines multiple radars and cameras as well as a haptic-enabled seat to tell you where threats are coming from.

Most of the motorcycle radar systems we’ve seen thus far have focused on the front of bikes, allowing the introduction of adaptive cruise control and collision warning and mitigation systems; only Ducati has put a radar on the back as well, providing blind-spot monitoring and early warning of fast-approaching vehicles. Indian’s latest patent, however, shows a bike that’s bristling with radar sensors, monitoring the front, rear, and sides, allied to an even greater number of cameras to give an additional layer of information to both the system and the rider.

indian motorcycle front radar monitor diagram
As you’d expect, the system’s front radar monitors front vehicle speed and distance, but it’s also paired with a front-facing camera.Indian Motorcycle

Indian’s front radar is relatively straightforward, monitoring the distance and closing speed to vehicles ahead and enabling the adoption of adaptive cruise control and the same collision warning systems used by BMW, Ducati, and KTM. However, it’s also backed up with a camera that allows the on-board computer to identify the type of vehicle in front.

Why does that matter? Because it means the system can be trained to react to that vehicle as well as its speed and distance; it can be programmed to respond differently depending on the vehicle in question. On bikes, that’s particularly useful when riding in groups. Since you can stagger bikes across a single lane, it’s often safe to ride relatively close to another motorcycle, staying slightly to one side of it. That might trigger alarms on a conventional collision warning system or adaptive cruise control, but Indian’s system is designed to allow the rider to choose to turn off alerts for motorcycles, while keeping them on for other vehicles. The system in the patent shows motorcycles, cars, trucks, and semis all classed separately, with the ability to alter the distance at which a collision warning system is triggered.

indian motorcycle overhead system view diagram
Two rear-facing radars are combined with five rear-facing cameras giving the rider a wide field of view on the cockpit’s TFT screen.Indian Motorcycle

It’s the same with the rear- and side-facing radars and cameras. On the Indian patent, the bike is shown with five rear-facing cameras. Two are mounted on the engine bars, just below the mirrors, and mimicking the field of view you’d get in the mirrors. Two more are in the rear edge of the panniers, with a wider field of view to monitor vehicles in your blind spots. A final camera points directly backward. Two rear-facing radars are fitted in the panniers, covering the back and sides of the bike.

As with the front, these cameras mean the system can identify the vehicles approaching from behind. Again, when riding in groups you might choose to turn off warnings about nearby motorcycles to prevent constant alerts or set the system to be less sensitive about bikes while remaining vigilant for other vehicles.

By using radars and cameras together, the system can also employ a large TFT screen on the bike’s dash to flash up live images of the approaching threat, giving a visual warning and letting the rider make a more informed decision about how to respond. A fast-moving motorcycle approaching from a rear three-quarter angle to overtake might be nothing to worry about, while a big rig with no brakes directly behind would warrant an emergency maneuver.

indian motorcycle tft screen diagram
The TFT screen can identify vehicles by type and give the appropriate warnings.Indian Motorcycle

The TFT is also used to program the distances at which alerts are triggered for each type of vehicle. Indian is also planning a stripped-down version of the system for smaller bikes, with the patent showing a Scout fitted with a much simpler instrument, using a text display inside the speedometer to tell the rider what type of vehicle it has identified.

indian motorcycle haptic seat diagram
A haptic seat also sends out buzzes to warn the rider of approaching threats.Indian Motorcycle

While systems that give you more information about your surroundings are a help, there’s clearly a possibility that a setup with multiple cameras could be confusing. So, as well as using lights on the dash or in the mirrors to show blind-spot warnings and indicate where the threat lies, the Indian design also has a haptic seat incorporating four vibration motors. These can make specific sections of the seat buzz to give a physical indication about where the nearby vehicle is.

As well as warning the rider about vehicles approaching from behind, the Indian system is also intended to help make the bike itself more visible to the drivers of those vehicles. The patent shows a flow chart of reactions that it can make, starting by automatically flashing the bike’s hazards to make sure the driver who’s posing a risk knows that you’re there, and then moving on to sounding the horn and flashing the brake light if he doesn’t respond.

indian motorcycle system programming flowchart diagram
The system can be programmed to also send out warnings to approaching cars.Indian Motorcycle

On top of all this, Indian’s patent includes a host of details about the adaptive cruise control system itself, which incorporates lean sensors to make sure the automated applications of throttle or brakes aren’t unnatural. In particular, the patent notes that when riding in groups, bikes that are staggered across a lane on a straight will often go into a single-file formation in a curve. This is programmed into the Indian system, which incorporates a dizzying array of “if this, then that” instructions about distance to the vehicle ahead, speed, lean angle, and a bike’s position in the lane to decide whether or not to back off from the vehicle ahead in these situations. There’s also a possibility in corners that the radar or camera will briefly lose sight of the bike or car in front, and it’s important the cruise control’s response isn’t to accelerate too hard in this situation.

indian motorcycle radar system diagram
There looks to be a simpler, stripped-down version in the works for smaller bikes like the Scout.Indian Motorcycle

Indian isn’t alone in considering the importance of group riding when developing adaptive cruise control. Back in 2019 Harley-Davidson filed a patent for a system that could understand the staggered riding formation often adopted by motorcycles and react appropriately. While we’ve yet to see a production bike with that system, it’s clear that radar cruise control and alert systems are going to become increasingly widespread on two wheels and the manufacturer that can most accurately address the unique ways that bikes differ from cars in the way they use the road will be well positioned to make the most of the tech.

We already know that Kawasaki is planning to introduce radar on at least one 2022 model, while BMW is poised to bring the idea to cruisers with its upcoming R 18-based Transcontinental. Honda is also hard at work on its own radar systems for the Gold Wing and Africa Twin.

indian motorcycle side camera diagram
Side cameras help expand the rider’s overall field of view to address blind spots.Indian Motorcycle

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