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Fully autonomous motorcycles are closer than you think | Manufacture News | News

Yamaha and Honda will use this year’s Tokyo Motor Show to debut the latest developments of their self-riding technology. Yamaha first showed its R1-riding Motobot two years ago, saying its intention was to have it lap a racetrack at over 200km/h within two years, a deadline that coincides with the Tokyo Motor Show.

Yamaha has now applied for a trademark for MOTOROiD, which signals the firm’s production name for its self-riding project. A trademark, of course, is of greatest use to a commercial product which is available for sale to the public. So while that started out as an eye-opening publicity stunt, it’s becoming more and more clear that Yamaha has autonomous motorcycle technology in its near future.

Not one to be beaten to the punch, tech-savvy Honda has revealed images of its all-electric Riding Assist-e ahead of its Tokyo debut later this month. Remember Honda’s NC750-based Riding Assist concept shown in January this year? Well this is the follow-up act…    

Yamaha

Yamaha will reveal an update on its Motobot project at the Tokyo Motor Show. It’s a robot intended to be able to ride any conventional bike and the project is being used to develop the next generation of rider aids. However, a motorcycle-riding robot, as interesting as it is, has little practical use by itself. Where it will provide a benefit is in its analysis of exactly how humans ride, and how best to manipulate a bike’s controls. Once that knowledge is in place, incorporating it into the stability control systems of normal bikes will be the next obvious step for Yamaha.

The MOTOROiD trademark application hints this is what the Japanese company is up to. Most of the description is just fluff to ensure it applies to every type of motorcycle imaginable. Look hard and the key elements are there: self-balancing and stability control systems for motorcycles are the key objectives.

Honda

Like the earlier bike, which made mainstream news thanks to videos of it in unmanned action and balancing at a standstill, the Riding Assist-e is a self-balancing bike. It uses the same system, whereby the head angle can be electrically altered, stretching out for more stability at low speed. With small movements it minutely shifts the bike’s centre of gravity, allowing it to stand upright, even when stationary. While there’s no question this technology will be incorporated into future stability control systems, the more significant element of the new concept could really be its electric powertrain. Honda is making a big push to develop electric bikes and the idea of an electrically powered NC750 is a tempting one. While self-balancing, autonomous-riding motorcycles might be in dealerships sometime in the future, the spectre of an electric commuter bike in the mould of the NC750S seems a much more imminent prospect.

Other Hondas in Tokyo

Aside from the Riding Assist-e, much of Honda’s Tokyo Motor Show stand is set to be devoted to celebrating the legendary Cub, production of which is passing the 100 million mark. It’s quite simply the most popular form of motorised transport ever devised. Honda will also show a concept Monkey 125, which it’s calling a world premiere, suggesting it’s not the same as the Monkey 125 concept bike that was shown at the Bangkok Motor Show last year.

By Ben Purvis

As printed in AMCN Vol 67 No 08