NHTSA releases 2026 study on acceptance of self-driving motorcycles
As self-driving cars take over our roadways -cocooning people inside advertising and tracking booths- many expected motorcyclists to be the holdout. Live free, ride free, or die. This is still America after all, right? Until recently most pundits predicted an epic battle with freedom, self-responsibility, and individuality squaring up against safety, efficiency, and big corporate interests.
However, the newly-released 2026 study by the NHTSA reports that a majority of motorcyclists now welcome a future where they can live every moment being tracked, sit but not steer, and live safe, long, and likely boring lives.
The top 5 reasons that riders now think self-driving motorcycles will actually be awesome include:
- The overwhelming appeal of the new active spine harness and gyroscope systems that let the motorcycle control how much the rider leans into turns. For example Harley Davidson’s new Along For The Ride system.
- No more passing, just move along with the pontoon of cars.
- On the grid all the time, don’t need your mobile on to be fully tracked.
- Freedom to play motorcycle driving games with VR helmet.
- General desire to reduce thrills, enjoyment.
Despite the conclusions of the study, there remain several issues that motorcyclists are apparently still concerned about, and we do expect to see ongoing debate and legislation in these areas.
The first of these involves the desire by many motorcyclists for the traffic control algorithms to be altered so that motorcycle gangs, and other groups wishing to ride together, have a viable way to form a “righteous platoon.” California legislators are currently opposed to alterations in the traffic control algorithms on behalf of any groups or interest coalitions, with one California senator stating “why don’t they just get on a bus together.” However in Wyoming and Nevada there are bills under consideration.
The second issue many motorcyclists do still feel strongly about is that they be officially allowed into the few “free drive” raceways and carparks still open in several states. Unfortunately, given that most of these venues are privately controlled it appears unlikely many of them will move to allow the motorcyclists access. One carpark owner echoed the common reasoning “We’re okay with the steering of course, but the freedom to lean into a turn, and balance a two-wheeled vehicle without assistance, we just can’t allow that.”