LIVEWIRE IS A SMART OPERATOR
Harley’s new electric bike uses telematics to increase control, safety and connectivity
‘We started working with H-D four years ago’ DAVID TAYLOR, PANASONIC
Harley’s LiveWire will not only be the firm’s first production electric motorcycles it will also be packed with the very latest technology. Among its most unique features is that it’s constantly connected to the cloud via Panasonic’s OneConnect platform. This gives owners a huge range of functions through an associated phone app including bike status (such as charge level), tamper alerts and bike tracking if it’s stolen; as well as more mundane things like service reminders. But what’s truly novel is that the whole thing runs off a small box between the seat and tank called a Telematics Control Unit (TCU).
‘Black box’ style
You might be familiar with telematics if you’ve taken out car insurance for a new driver recently. It’s mostly known as ‘Black Box’ insurance in the UK, where a small box in the boot transmits driving information, such as speed, to a computer so that a new driver’s behaviour can be monitored. The system in the LiveWire is similar in that it collects and sends data on the bike, although you needn’t worry; no-one will be sending any speed data to the local constabulary.
“We started working with Harley about four years ago,” says David Taylor, Executive Director of Product Strategy at Panasonic. “They brought their knowledge about the riding experience and we brought our technical knowledge. It was a collaborative process.”
In simple terms, the TCU is a transmitter that sends data about the bike to Panasonic’s cloud service via its modem. It works on a whole range of bands so doesn’t need a phone connection to transmit. The computed information is then sent back to your phone to give you all the relevant info about the bike. Panasonic have been offering these services to the car market for some time but converting it to fit a bike was a real challenge.
“We had a good start point and found ways to shrink it down,” adds Taylor. “We had to seal it, too, from water and dust ingress.”
The TCU also had to be reworked for the shape and size of a bike.
“Because bikes are so tightly packaged, the interference between the items inside is more complex. The TCU is a radio transmitter and receiver, so has more opportunity to interfere with other things.
“We also weren’t expecting the vibration. We understood it would be a harsher environment but didn’t expect just quite how harsh. All of the vibrations are at different frequencies, which gave us different challenges on the (circuit) board in the box. It was a very challenging process.”