Archive for the ‘Automotive’ Category

Making a Beeline from A to B

September 11, 2019

Using your phone as a GPS on a motorbike is both good and bad. Good because you can have a rich navigation experience like Waze (though that’s got some UX flaws that show it’s really optimized for cars) but bad because you expose your phone to the elements (this winter killed my Pixel2 even in a case!).

I’d thought about getting a dedicated navigation device for my bike (especially one that maybe supported TPMS sensors) but most of them were either overkill, overly expensive, or geared more to off-road use than I’d ever need. I also got a Fobo Bike2 so didn’t need the TPMS capabilities either. (more…)

6 seconds might not seem like a long time…

August 26, 2019

One of the downsides of being on a motorbike is that you don’t have the same sort of protective cage around you that motorists enjoy, and while a full leather race-suit does give you some pretty good protection it’s not exactly casual dress when you get where you’re going…

Enter the world of kevlar lined and armour padded motorcycle wear. Back in the summer I got myself an upgraded shirt for the days when I didn’t want to sling the full jacket on, and it proved to be comfortable and practical. Sadly I couldn’t say the same for the jeans I’ve been using for some years. While they have similar kevlar lining to the shirt, and armour at the knees, they were never that comfortable … the kevlar lining was only in patches and the edges would rub, and the armour was really rigid. I’ve been looking for a replacement for a while, and when I was back in the US I first heard of a brand called SAINT who, as luck would have it, are based just a short ride from me!Screen Shot 2019-08-26 at 4.57.06 pm

Since I first heard of them, they’ve upgraded their jeans to “Model 3“. These are made from a custom fabric called Dyneema® which is not only stronger than Kevlar®, because it’s woven into the denim rather than a seperate layer, it’s lighter, more flexible, and breathable. Unlike regular denim which will disintegrate pretty much as soon as something goes wrong, this gives you up to 6 seconds of slide time, which could be very significant. To help if things get out of shape there’s also removable armour in the knees and at the hips.

Screen Shot 2019-08-26 at 5.05.45 pmSince getting these I’ve given them a fair workout … a couple of longer (1.5hr+) rides, all day wear officiating at race events (with a lot of walking and having to get over the pit lane wall – fun seeing the same logo on a couple of the cars as on my pants), and even a couple of days working in a TV studio … and they’re surprisingly comfortable and usable, especially compared to my old pair. Because they’re breathable you don’t get hot and sweaty, and the armour is flexible enough that I totally forgot about the hip padding and my concerns about the knees limiting mobility were quickly put to rest.

I suspect this won’t be the last pair of Saint pants I get (they also do ‘regular’ jeans, cargos, and even shorts)…

Digital Dashboard for a Harley Davidson

April 29, 2019

As a bit of a nerd, when I got my first Harley Davidson I was surprised at how low-tech it was in some respects. Compared to my car there was very minimal information about what was going on, and even less than my previous (mostly Japanese) bikes.

In my Mustang I had been playing around with an ODB-II adapter to get some more stats out of the car using an app on my phone but sadly while ODB-II was a mandated standard on cars in the US since 1996 there is nothing like it for motorcycles….


Tire Pressure Monitoring for Motorbikes

April 25, 2019

With the relatively small contact patch a motorcycle has compared to a car (each tire, or tyre depending on where in the world you are, only has about a palm sized area in touch with the road) it’s saddened me that while automotive tire pressure monitor systems (TPMS) have become more sophisticated over the years – going from a single warning light on the dashboard to displays showing individual tire pressure and temperature in real time – motorbikes haven’t seen much in the way of similar advances.


Keeping cool on two wheels

January 11, 2019

In the 30+ years I’ve been riding Motorcycles (has it really been that long!) one rule has stuck with me – ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time). In a car you’re protected with seatbelts and solid panels, but on a bike what you’re wearing is your safety net if things go horribly wrong, so it makes sense to pay attention to that. The basics are a helmet, jacket (depending on the weather I have a choice of leather or ballistic nylon, both have armour inserts), pants (while the logic of chaps is undeniable, the Village People have rather claimed that look!), gloves, and good boots (ankle protectors, and a patch to stop the shifter wearing the top). The habit is so well ingrained that I get twitchy just rolling the bike off the drive into the garage if I’m not dressed right! (more…)

Minimal GPS for a Motorbike

June 30, 2018

As a motorcyclist I often need a GPS to help get somewhere. I don’t want or need a dedicated unit because (a) they’re expensive and (b) Google Maps, Waze, or Here on my phone are rock solid and why would I want to pay for something that doesn’t do as good a job. Yes, I know they need phone coverage for live traffic routing, and apart from Here they don’t have a good download/off-line solution, but its rare that I have no coverage with my riding (YMMV of course).

What I don’t like though is clunky phone mounts that leave my expensive pocket computer at the mercy of the weather, stone chips, and taking a tumble if I don’t get it properly secured. And to be honest, while the mapping apps have great UX for a car driver or pedestrian, as a motorcyclist I really want a very focussed, minimalistic UI so minimize distraction.

I think my ideal solution would be a small waterproof/shockproof device, that has versatile mounting options (to cater for everything from pushbikes, to scooters, to Cruisers, Tourers, or Street Bikes), can be powered from the bike and/or contain a rechargeable battery, that supports Bluetooth (4.x/LE) to be driven from the phone and has an eInk display with a photocell and backlight for automatically providing good visibility in any lighting condition.

The display would show just the basics of what I need to navigate – the turn I’m coming up to (and how far away it is, and ideally an indication of what comes after that if it’s going to be in close proximity), what lane I need to be in (especially helpful for roundabouts or complex junctions) and not much else. Speed limit reminders, clock, time to destination, and other notifications would be handy but optional (my bike has a clock so I’d be happy to have the screen real estate optimized to not show that, but as my previous bike didn’t have one I would have liked it, so let the rider decide).

While I’m not a fan of notifications about text messages, emails, snapchats etc I can see the benefit of a non-obtrusive icon to allow filtered notifications (eg let me know my family is trying to get hold of me).

Sadly I think we’re stuck with a catch-22. Without a hardware device to display this information there’s no incentive for Google, Apple, or Here to add support for a minimal external display to their Maps apps, and without the APIs or support in the apps to pipe minimal directions and graphics then it’s hard to see anyone going to the expense of creating the device.

As we slowly get to a future where HUD displays become more of a reality for motorcyclists (I always wanted to try Google Glass in that scenario) having this minimal UX available to project in that limited space would be a great way for a mapping provider to win hearts and minds of a sizable community…

Update: Looks like there’s a possible solution in the Beeline Moto … pledged for one of these so maybe it’ll answer my need (though not sure if the single arrow display is too minimal)

Connected Cars and Smarter Smartphones

June 25, 2014

As smartphones get smarter, and cars more connected it seems to me that there is a huge untapped market. Not everyone will replace their car along with their phone (or vice versa) so an opportunity exists to create a flexible, standards based solution both for new vehicles and aftermarket retro fit scenarios.

Luckily many of the standards needed to deliver this already exist. Bluetooth, NFC, wireless charging, ODB-II can all combine to present a seamless experience – if only the software was available to tie it all together… (more…)