IBM Cloud

Harley Davidson’s New Electric Motorcycle Elevates Riding Experience with IBM Cloud

The iconic American brand is advancing the social nature of motorcycling through a range of connected services.

By Jim Daly
February 27, 2019

Paul James has had some cool jobs in his career at Harley-Davidson, from director of Motorcycle Product Planning to leading PR efforts at the Motor Company. But he’s not resting on the laurels of the iconic American brand, which is accelerating into the future.

While the Harley name typically evokes images of heavy low-slung choppers roaring down a lonesome highway, James is also savvy enough to know that the 116-year-old American motorcycle manufacturer needs to embrace the future while it banks on its past.

That’s why it has teamed up with IBM to provide the cloud services for its first production electric motorcycle, LiveWire, set to debut in August. LiveWire is equipped with H-D Connect Service, which keeps riders aware of their bike’s performance using an on-board Telematics Control Unit that feeds data to the mobile Harley-Davidson App using IBM cloud services.

“LiveWire is fully electric but also fully connected,” says James. “We really wanted to infuse a lot of future thinking and technology into this motorcycle. It’s a totally next-generation experience for a rider.”

An array of cloud-based services and vital bike checkups will be available on the cellular-connected bike, which can jump from 0 to 60mph in less than 3.5 seconds. LiveWire features a high-voltage battery that provides an estimated 110-mile range, and a glance at the app can reveal the bike’s battery level as well as the location of nearby charging stations. It’s also easy to remotely check the battery status of a bike that is being charged. Notifications will pop up on the screen when charging is complete, and also to remind riders of service and care requirements.

 “There’s a brotherhood and sisterhood that happens between riders,” James says. “In some ways motorcycling was the original social network. Bikers also have a special bond with their machines and H-D Connect will only strengthen that. .”

The result, says Marc McAllister, Vice President of Product Planning and Portfolio for the Milwaukee-based company, is a “balance between using data to create both intelligent and personal experiences, while maintaining privacy and security.”        

Riders want to keep their beloved cycle in top shape, and can receive upcoming service requirements, safety alerts, and even recall notifications from the app. Those capabilities will continue to grow in the future, as Harley-Davidson plans to expand the advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things capabilities on LiveWire.

The technology will enable H-D Connect to better understand the rider, the motorcycle, and what’s going on in the surrounding environment so as to continually improve the riding experience.

For now, James hopes the connected experience will not only result in a more enjoyable experience, but also enhance the bond riders have with their bikes and fellow cycle enthusiasts.

“Many riders have a very strong personal connection with their bike,” James says. “You and your machine become one during those times you’re riding. This is a unique opportunity to have that connection enhanced. LiveWire owners will  always and instantly be able to know where their bike is, how it’s doing mechanically, and how to keep it in the best shape. It’s going to be a pretty special connection.”