Common Tread

Energica and Samsung replace mirrors with smartphones

Nov 15, 2018

Motorcycle mirrors haven’t advanced all that much since the early days of our sport. Sure, they’ve been made vibration-resistant or more aerodynamic, maybe with built-in turn signals if they’re really fancy, but mirrors aren't hotbeds of motorcycling innovation.

More often than not, the stockers just offer different views of my shoulders. I toss them in a box, get something aftermarket, and that’s that. With the “Smart Ride” project, based on an Eva EsseEsse9, Samsung and Energica imagine a future without traditional mirrors. That’s just one part of their new collaborative concept, which also explores smartwatch connectivity, ride recording, and combatting range anxiety.

Even the bike’s name is unconventional. Bolid-E is a play on “bolide,” or fiery meteor. I would not have named a motorcycle sporting Samsung smartphones after a flying fireball, but nobody asked me. 

The “Samsung Heads UP Display” intelligent mirrors are A8 Galaxies with their smartphone functionality disabled. These phones currently retail for around $300 to $350, and that’s not counting the camera setups and other technology needed to run their functions. Over half a grand for “mirrors” is more than I’d want to pay, but a production version could be built for less using only the components it needs. The “intelligent mirrors” flank a typical Energica display. Placing them so far inboard means the rider can see them easily. They’re also better protected if the bike goes down.

A camera at the rear of the bike sends a live feed to one phone, while the other captures and records a front view. The front feed could be used for simply recording a ride video, but it also functions as a dashcam. Same goes for the rear. The Bolid-E is started with a smartwatch, which can also communicate with the bike’s computers. My favorite feature? You can honk the horn from your watch, which would probably never get old. 

There’s more to the Bolid-E than screens. Energica describes “a remote monitoring system to track the motorbike when it is used by several people. It is possible to display on a map the current position of the user and her/his Energica motorbike, define a range within which the motorbike can be used and get notified when it goes too far away.” Monitoring the bike at all times, even when others are riding it, has its uses. Theft protection is an obvious benefit, but how about knowing exactly what your motorcycle does while rented out on a service like Twisted Road?

Samsung Energica Bolid-E
Energica photo.

Like household smart mirrors, the Bolid-E could be seen as a solution trying to find a problem. Then again, cars have used similar tech successfully, and some suggest that cars will be mirrorless in the very near future anyway, relying on cameras like the Bolid-E’s to replace them. Automotive research conducted by Exa Corporation, a CAD engineering firm, found that “mirrorless designs would improve the average vehicle’s aerodynamics by about 6 percent. If spread across all U.S. vehicles, that improvement would save a stunning 145 million gallons of fuel every year.” That’s got my interest.

Along with many of you, I don’t want to add screens to the motorcycles in my garage, thank you very much, but then again I don’t ride an electric motorcycle yet. What’s more important to me is that Samsung and Energica are thinking about age-old problems in motorcycling, then collaborating to try different ideas. The Bolid-E may never see production, but it’s the drive to improve that matters.