Will Self-Driving Motorcycles Actually Catch On?
Photo Courtesy of Honda
Clint Lawrence, founder of Motorcycle Shippers, industry consultant and ambassador of fun. [email protected]
What About Self-driving Motorcycles?
Self-driving cars dominated last month’s L.A. Auto Show, and all signs show that they’re already changing the face of transportation as we know it. But self-driving cars aren’t the only smart vehicle prepping to hit the road. The self-driving motorcycle, a lesser-known but growing segment, is quickly gaining steam among innovators and manufacturers eager to take driving automation to the next level.
In the two-wheel world where experiencing the ride is the whole point, a self-driving motorcycle may seem a bit ironic. But the concept has taken root and is driving product advancements forward. Here’s what you need to know about self-driving motorcycles and other automation tech that you could see in motorcycle showrooms soon.
What is a self-driving motorcycle?
Like other autonomous vehicles, a self-driving motorcycle would use advanced sensor technology, wireless connectivity and artificial intelligence to control a vehicle without input from a driver.
SRI International is already developing a robot motorcycle rider with the assistance of Yamaha and the Valentino Rossi. While this “MOTOBOT” may not compete with the Rossi just yet, its developers are confident that it’s only a matter of time before the legendary MotoGP Rossi would be competitive in a future RoboGP circuit.
SRI’s motorbike-driving robot is one of the most prominent examples in this young segment, and the technical challenges it’s overcoming are laying the foundation for the self-driving bikes of the future.
But unlike with self-driving cars, complete autonomy isn’t the goal for these motorcycles—at least not in these early stages. Intelligent motorcycles already exist, integrating advanced technology in traction and stability. Self-driving motorcycles will enter the scene largely as driving assistants. BMW has already debuted a concept bike that incorporates a gyroscopic balance system as well as an active heads-up visor to display information for riders. Meanwhile, Honda debuted its self-balancing Rider Assist Motorcycle at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, gaining significant buzz (and even a few of the massive tech tradeshow’s coveted innovation awards).
While motorcycles may not drive themselves just yet, they are on the verge of becoming simpler and more intuitive to drive for beginners and experienced riders alike.
Autonomous Cars Will Come First
Google and other companies are testing prototype self-driving cars that have lower accident rates than human-driven cars. Tesla has already introduced some semi-autonomous advances in its Model S, with highway assist that effectively drives the car while it is on a highway. These technological advances will likely be applied to motorcycles with time, but automating a motorcycle means contending with traction and balance issues from its two wheels and the shifting rider on top.
Most car companies have shown little interest thus far in developing an autonomous motorcycle, leaving thousands of miles and hours of testing untapped. While self-driving cars are leading the way, motorcycles, with their growing list of self-driving features, are likely the next phase for this technology.
Will a Self-Driving Motorcycle Actually Catch On?
Technology is all fine and well, but what good is it unless it solves a real problem?
Most motorcyclists crave the ride and the unparalleled sense of freedom it brings. As technology advances, bikes will likely come to do more of the “thinking” so that rider input isn’t directly controlling it. Advanced features will enable the motorcycle to “make decisions” about how to best achieve the rider’s goal. And while many fear that the “feel” of a motorcycle will change and reduce the joy of riding, every present feature in your bike was once an advancement, too. As safety and performance advantages of new technology become apparent, riders will likely come to accept the new features as they develop—or at least that’s what Honda, BMW and others are betting on.
The totally autonomous motorcycle may still be a distant spot on the horizon. But if the self-driving car segment is any indication, as time goes on, bikers will increasingly turn over control to allow their motorcycles to assist them on their rides.
Technology is already changing the ways we get around, and it’s not slowing down any time soon. When you’re ready to buy that tech-enhanced bike, Motorcycle Shippers will be with you every step of the way. Let our team ensure that your motorcycle shipping experience is at the top of its game and that your bike arrives at its new home in pristine shape.