Radar-assisted safety systems are going to be one of the hot tech topics when bike firms unveil their 2020 models later this year. Ducati has already confirmed it will have at least one bike—probably a Multistrada derivative—with front and rear radar in its 2020 range and KTM is also hard at work on its own radar-equipped machines. But the European brands won't have the field to themselves, as Japanese brands are also developing bikes that will use radar technology in the near future. These patent application images show Kawasaki's take on the idea.

Versys-type motorcycle
Kawasaki’s Japanese patent application shows forward-facing radar on a Versys-type motorcycle.Japanese Patent Office

All the ideas seen so far have been basically the same and derive from existing technology that’s familiar in production cars. At the front, a radar unit mounted in the fairing will bounce its waves off vehicles in front, measuring the distance and the closing speed. Combined with electronic throttles and modern, computer-controlled ABS, these front radars give the opportunity to add adaptive cruise control to motorcycles. If you haven’t experienced such systems in cars already, they keep a constant distance to the vehicle in front and often incorporate automatic braking systems to help prevent or mitigate accidents.

Forward-facing radar
Forward-facing radar could be used for adaptive cruise control and accident avoidance.Japanese Patent Office

Rear-facing radars aren’t common on cars, but they are featured on Kawasaki’s still-secret design as well as on KTM’s and Ducati’s systems. Like the front radars, they monitor the distance and speed difference between the bike and the vehicle behind it. Although not tied in with the brakes or cruise control, the rear radar is intended to give an early warning to riders if a vehicle from behind is approaching too fast, hopefully giving you enough time to get out of the way before becoming involved in somebody else’s accident.

rear-facing radar
Kawasaki’s rear-facing radar could give riders warning when a vehicle is approaching from behind too quickly.Japanese Patent Office

Bosch, the huge German automotive engineering company that dominates motorcycle ABS and stability control systems, is one of the driving forces behind the development of motorcycle-mounted radar. The firm’s modus operandi is to openly supply its equipment to any manufacturer prepared to pay for it, which explains how technology like cornering ABS and IMU-assisted traction control has spread through motorcycling so fast; almost every firm offering the technologies uses the same Bosch-made equipment.

Kawasaki is one of those Bosch customers for ABS and traction control, and it’s more than likely the firm will be using Bosch radar systems as well. Its patent application, seen here, shows radar fitted to a Versys 1000-style machine, but is involved with the mounting arrangement for the front and rear radar units (labeled “61” and “62” respectively in the images) rather than the actual radar technology. Fitting the rear radar is relatively simple—Kawasaki is opting to position the unit, a small black box, just below the taillight. At the front it’s slightly more complex as any bodywork ahead of the unit needs to be “invisible” to radar and mustn’t interrupt or deflect signals to the unit.

Kawasaki’s radar units
Locations of Kawasaki’s radar units on are labeled “61” and “62” in this patent drawing.Japanese Patent Office

Suzuki and Honda have also both filed patents in recent months relating to radar-equipped bikes, suggesting that most major manufacturers are planning to use the technology within the next few years.