Current traction control systems work by analyzing the motorcycle’s real-time movement. The latest systems look at wheel slip, lean angle, speed and other data, all gathered by accelerometors and other sensors that tell the bike’s electronic brains what’s going on, and whether or not the ECU needs to cut power to the rear wheel to avoid trouble.
The problem here is obvious: While these traction control systems might make calculations hundreds or thousands of times per second, they’re still limited to the surfaces the motorcycle is riding over, and cannot predict trouble before it arrives.
The new system, allegedly discovered in a BMW patent, would use forward-scanning cameras to determine upcoming traction levels, preparing the system for something like a diesel spill or gravel. Cleverly, BMW is also supposedly adding acoustic sensors to this system which can detect the changing noises tires make on different surfaces, and also adjust the traction control system accordingly.
All very clever and trick, although the bike would theoretically have to have some sort of auto-pilot enabled to take care of steering, as throttle input alone might not be enough to solve a really tricky traction situation.
Of course, there’s no guarantee the system will ever make it to production, either; a patent application doesn’t mean we’ll see this on a bike anytime in the near future.