What’s your number one pet peeve when riding your scooter? I should say what’s your number one pet peeve when riding your scooter other than avoiding latte-sipping, cell phone twiddling, make-up applying drivers… after that, I bet that might be forgetting to turn off your turn signals. On group rides, I often get the “five finger flash” notification from other riders that I have, once again, left a turn signal flashing. It’s a bothersome thing for me, because I pride myself on my safe riding. But it’s not all my fault… well, it actually is, but there are mitigating circumstances, I swear. Since I ride and have ridden a number of different scoots and motorcycles, it’s a more difficult task than it sounds. Here are some of my excuses:
Problem one: My turn signal switches are all over the place. On two of my scoots, they were on the right grip instead of the left grip. So there I am, concentrating on the road and the throttle that happens to be located on the right grip, all the while happily switching from low to high beam on the left grip when finishing a turn. Great.
Problem two: Some of my scoots have had an aural indicator, some too loud and some too quiet… and it’s tough when you are used to the “beep” when you are actually riding a scoot with a silent turn signal indicator. That transition, and the ensuing “did I or didn’t I?” question could mean that you forget to signal, or equally bad, forget to turn it off.
Problem three: A poorly designed switch that is either too sensitive (with a short throw or a weak middle detent), not sensitive enough (hard to operate with gloves on), or one that doesn’t offer the brilliant “press-to-cancel” function.
Turning one’s turn signals off is a bigger problem than we think, and can leave you in a potentially deadly situation. But there is an answer – as Miha Kovač, the CEO of Smart Turn Signal (STS – based out of Slovenia, EU) put it “I was riding around with turn signals left on after a completion of a maneuver and a very attentive car driver cut me off from the side road – his assumption of me intending to make a right turn at the crossroad was soundly based on what he was able to see: a blinking turn signal.” We’ve all been there and the rage at one of those “dumb cage drivers” pulling out in front of you quickly turns to embarrassment as you realize that it was you who was the dumb party in the on-the-road communication… as you grit your teeth and sheepishly turn your signal off.
The creation of a modern, accurate and reliable turn signal switch can’t really be that difficult, can it? Building a good, reliable one might be, as STS has just come up with what they call “The first self-canceling turn signal system for motorcycle that reliably and automatically cancels turn signals when the maneuver is completed.” It sounds like pure magic to me – so far, so good.
The Smart Turn System is a plug in module that goes between your stock turn signal activation switch and the turn signals. The box allows you to initiate a turn signal normally and then automatically detects when the turning event is over and electronically cancels the signal for you. As announced at the EICMA conference in Italy last year, the STS will be commercially available in the U.S. in spring of 2016.
The biggest difference between some other automatic turn cancelling systems and the Smart Turn System is that their system continuously monitors vehicle movement with integrated motion sensors and can determine whether there was a completion of a turn, exit from an intersection (or even a roundabout, a particularly tough challenge) or change of lane before cancelling the turn signal.
The STS figures out when your turn has been accomplished with a combination of measurements on your scoots inclination, heading, vibrations and acceleration. These inputs are gathered, analyzed in real time, and the turn signal is electronically cancelled. This elegant solution leaves the rider to manage the exit of the turn or lane change without having to worry about a errant turn signal continuously signaling a turn already made or one that is unintended. The system essentially detects when the turn is over, but of course it can’t physically move the turn signal switch back. But what about the mechanical switch, still indicating the turn? The answer is that the system electronically cancels the signal and allows the switch to function as normal. This probably means that for a right turn followed by a right turn, you’ll have to move the switch to off, and then back to the right for the second signal, which will be a different experience for sure. After a few uses, it will become second nature.
As fas as installation, it’s a plug and play device, says Rok Upelj, the COO of STS. He says that it’s already been tested on scooters from Piaggio and that other compatibilities will be announced soon. The company has started collecting beta testers and that program is scheduled to go live in March. The price is listed at 149€, (currently about $165) but will vary based on the application. If that sounds a little steep, there will be a pre-order discount program for early adopters with compatible scoots and bikes. Availability will first come through STS’s website, but they are talking to distributors in the US in advance of the debut here.
It sounds like a fantastic idea and I’d love to try one out to see how the installation goes and how well it works. Then again, I’d have to remember which scoot has the STS and which ones don’t… here we go again.