The Autonomous Motorcycle. How it works

Where’s the balance coming from? And what’s the point

BMW Motorrad just show-cased a self-riding motorcycle at CES Las Vegas . Honda, also, developed a bike that could ride by itself through the Riding Assist technology. And Yamaha has the Motobot - a robot that competed against Valentino Rossi. The Motobot lost the battle by 30s on the track, but it’s still a great performance for a “rookie”. Does it sound a bit frightening? Maybe. But we’ll let the philosophers discuss it. Meanwhile, we’re curious about how it works. And what’s the purpose. 

How it works

The Balance. Without the side-stand,  a motorcycle would immediately fall on a side, but after it gains a bit of speed it can run straight like an arrow. To accomplish the balance the engineers took advantage of the latest motorcycle system that came around a few years ago - the inertial measurement units. This is a box filled with sensors (gyroscopes and accelerometers) that will measure the forces a motorcycle encounters while running.

Now that the movement can be translated into data, the engineers found a way to compensate the bike’s tendency to fall. With the help of a set of actuators, they managed to control the handlebars, the throttle, the brake and the side stand.

With everything connected to a computer, the only thing left to do was to program everything to work together. Don’t imagine this was a simple task. They had to learn from a series of tests how the bike reacts at different speeds and different angles, but somehow they put everything together and… there it is: the self-riding motorcycle.

What’s the purpose?

An autonomous car doesn’t seem to be that weird - most people buy cars to get from A to B in a comfortable way. But when it comes to motorcycle, it’s the road that matters the most. So, what’s the point in developing autonomous motorcycles?

The motorcycle companies claim that they’re doing it for safety reasons. Yes,  believe it or not, an autonomous motorcycle can be a lot safer than a motorcycle rider. Imagine a motorcycle having the same skills as Valentino Rossi and Marc Coma in their perfect shape at the same time.

Now imagine that you tackle a set of curves and at some point, the driver coming from the opposite way cuts you. In this situation, you have to be very lucky to get out unharmed, but if you’re letting Valentino Rossi and Marc Coma working it our, you might be safe. There’s no secret that a computer can analyze things a lot faster than a human, and if we are talking about different parameters I would personally trust a computer if something bad happens. 

Wait, but computers might not be trustworthy. This might be the first thought that comes through your head - “the electronics are breaking thing” - but it was already proven that computers are doing a good job in aviation and a lot of domains. So if you trust flying a plane, you should also try putting some confidence in the autonomous motorcycle.

All these pioneering technologies will increase the road safety. But what about the the pleasure of riding a motorcycle? We’ll see. A thing is for sure - this will be a part of the motorcycle world in the near future, so get ready. 

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