Autonomous vehicles have been attracting more attention lately than it had ever been in the last few years. Today, car manufacturers seem to be racing one another to see who is first to market using autonomous technology. From Google to General Motors, both automobile and technology firms are getting into the mix. But what about motorcycles? At first, the idea of an autonomous motorcycle might seem silly. A car is often recognized as a practical way to get from one point to another.
Motorcycles are supposed to be more about the thrill of the ride. However, the landscape is changing, and future motorcycles must keep pace. It is therefore little surprise that many bold companies are investing heavily in an autonomous motorcycle for the future.
What Makes an Autonomous Motorcycle?
For most autonomous car designers, self-driving vehicles have many recognizable features. For example, the Light Detection and Range (LIDAR) technology, often situated on autonomous vehicle rooftops, is relatively standard. However, LIDAR costs nearly $75,000, which makes it impractical for motorcycles at this point. Likewise, unlike self-driving cars, an autonomous motorcycle cannot let you kick back and enjoy a movie. For these reasons, autonomous motorcycles encompass a different range of features when compared to their car counterparts. However, they are just as intriguing nonetheless.
Some of the most notable features autonomous motorcycles now boast a variety of futuristic tools to make them safer and more comfortable. Data analytics, sensor fusion, applied artificial intelligence, and machine learning are all used to enhance autonomous motorcycle capabilities. For example, some motorcycles now feature self-balancing technologies. Others detect rider motion, facial features, and speech. Moreover, some autonomous motorcycles integrate with smartphone technologies, which may be critical in developing safer infrastructure networks.
Autonomous motorcycles are not quite ready for public streets yet. However, the same technologies pushing autonomous cars forward are also creating a brave new future for autonomous motorcycles as well.
Bold Companies Leading the Way
From motorcycle robots to helmetless motorcycles, several innovative companies are designing autonomous motorcycle features. See below a list of the businesses making the biggest waves in this intriguing technology and transportation sector.
Kawasaki is investing in autonomous motorcycle technologies although there is no date yet for the release of a prototype. The company’s Kanjo engine, which means “emotion” in English, is designed to interact with the rider during the ride. In addition to voice-controlled commands, the system also engages its rider in “chat” through speech recognition. Likewise, the system is designed to monitor rider status during the ride for enhanced safety. With over 5,000 fatalities in the U.S. each year from motorcycle accidents, safety is a major focus of many companies.
Honda Automatic Motorcycle
Honda is making great progress in autonomous motorcycle technology with the introduction of its Riding Assist e-motorcycle. The most notable feature is the motorcycle’s ability to self-balance itself at low speeds and while at a standstill. Rather than using gyroscopes, this autonomous motorcycle adjusts fork angles and the wheelbase to preserve balance. In addition, the Riding Assist technology enables the motorcycle to autonomously move toward a rider and park itself. Such features provide greater safety as well as convenience for motorcycle riders.
As part of the company’s 100th anniversary, BMW introduced its Vision Next 100. Included in this vision was its C1 self-riding motorcycle equipped with autonomous software, GPS sensors, and self-balancing technologies. This autonomous motorcycle comes with transparent futuristic glasses that provide road safety information. Likewise, it can communicate with wearable technologies that interact with the motorcycle. BMW also has an autonomous scooter called Concept Link that also offers various system integrations. And the best thing about BMW’s autonomous motorcycle is it has zero emissions.
Yamaha has pursued a few different strategies in autonomous motorcycle technology. Motoroid is the company’s premier project. It combines applied AI with autonomous motorcycle features. Among these features include facial recognition, rider movement detection, and autonomous parking abilities. It even has the ability to stand up from its kickstand and move toward its rider. Yamaha has also developed a Motobot, a robot motorcycle rider capable of competing with world-class motorcyclists. During a one-on-one competition with Italian legend Valentino Rossi, the Motobot reached speeds of 62 mph along course curves.
Opening Doors for New Innovations
Though autonomous motorcycles may not be around the next corner, these autonomous technologies are making impacts. Advances in autonomous technologies are used to enhance rider safety through self-driving assistance. At the same time, safety is being improved by making motorcycles more recognizable to other vehicles. Through robotics, companies are finding new opportunities to improve traction, stability, and balance as well. Even helmet manufacturers are incorporating augmented realities, wearable technologies, and data analytics into their products. Overall, the advances in autonomous motorcycle technology are impressive and certainly the way of the future. Also, instead of detracting from the thrill of the ride, these technologies will likely broaden the motorcycle experience even more.