Yahama is taking self-driving cars a step further: self-driving motorbikes. Meet MOTOBOT, a motorbike driving robot that has been engineered to surpass humans; to beat them at their own sport.
After months of trial and error, the engineers at Yamaha were ready to pit their self-driving robot against a human - a professional biker named Valentino Rossi. But the road to getting a robot driving a motorbike had to start with one crucial function: balancing.
Image: Honda’s Self-balancing Bike
Source: The Malay Online
Honda has also been tasking their engineers with balancing motorbikes - and they seem to have perfected their ability to self-balance. They have called it the ‘Riding Assist-e’ - an all-electric motorbike that will never fall over.
The bike was reportedly engineered with inspiration from the ASIMO robot - made popular by Honda in 2000. The company is naturally keeping the particulars of how they engineered the vehicle under wraps. However, we know it has something to do with the bike’s gyroscope. Lead engineer Hiroyuki Nakata said:
“For years international bike manufacturers have experimented with various forms of gyroscopes to stop motorcycles falling over. But if you wanted to keep something as heavy as a motorcycle standing, you need a large and heavy gyroscopic device and you need to keep turning it.”
In Yamaha’s case, they fitted a robotic rider to their biker to control the motorcycle. To balance the motorbike, the engineers have positioned a humanoid robot on top of it, keeping the bike stable. Unlike Honda’s concept build, Yamaha’s bike is completely unmodified. On race day, the robot was unfortunately not as fast as Rossi. Rossi set a time of 85.740 seconds, whereas MOTOBOT set a time of 117.504 seconds.
Engineers now need to figure out how to implement an artificial intelligence that can mirror human decision-making in order to beat the Rossi’s lap record. They also need to enable the fixed humanoid robot to move atop the bike, to increase the accuracy of turns and generally display the agility of a human.
All in all, the experimentation of self-balancing and self-riding motorcycles will result in improving motorcycle safety in future. The Chief Executive of Yamaha says the project is a “moon shot”; if they are to get it right it could change the game.
Your next pizza could just be delivered by an autonomous motorcycle!
“MOTOBOT Episode 3: Racing the Clock 挑戦.” YouTube, 24 Oct. 2017, youtu.be/mafJmMGGOXk.
Philip E. Ross
27 Oct 2017 | 16:00 GMT. “Watch Yamaha's Humanoid Robot Ride a Motorcycle Around a Racetrack.” IEEE Spectrum: Technology, Engineering, and Science News, 27 Oct. 2017, spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/transportation/self-driving/watch-yamahas-humanoid-robot-ride-a-motorcycle-around-a-racetrack.