Self-Driving Motorcycles Are Coming
Two years ago, Yamaha surprised the world at the Tokyo Motor Show by doing something you'd think would only happen in an anime or sci-fi TV-show: they built a humanoid robot, and programmed it ride Yamaha's most powerful motorcycle, the Yamaha R1M. After the Motobot was unveiled, Yamaha challenged esteemed MotoGP GOAT Valentino Rossi to a lap-time duel on Thunderhill West in California.
On October 30th 2017, the race came and went.
Valentino Rossi ran a 1:25.740, though not his best time ever on the course, it still easily got him the win, compared to the Motobot's 1:57.504, almost a full 32 seconds behind than Rossi.
Why did Motobot perform so poorly after 3 years of development? Driving a motorcycle at a professional-level like Rossi requires the rider to use their bodyweight to steer the bike. Riders hang so far off the bike that they drag their knees on the inside of turns, they shift their body weight down and forward to keep the front-wheel from coming off the ground while accelerating, and they pop up to use their body to produce air-drag while braking. Their butts rarely stay on the seat.
But Motobot is literally glued to it's seat, with crash-bars sticking far out to its sides to protect the expensive robot should it go into a low-slide.
Yamaha plans to use Motobot as a learning center for future motorcycle safety technology, but for now, it's just an expensive publiclity stunt.