Just two decades ago, autonomous vehicles were still a concept being considered in genius minds and by little kids on the playground. Some abstract thought of something that could happen in the future. But, if you are to believe the news, the future is here. Nowadays, car manufacturers racing each other to see who can bring true autonomous technology to the market. Even technology firms like Google are getting involved. As with all things, one concept bleeds into another. So, if all this is happening for cars, who's doing the same in with motorcycles? To some, this may seem like a silly concept. Cars are a more practical way to get from one destination to another, especially if they are self-driving. Motorcycles are about the feeling you get when you're on an open highway. But, the world is changing and motorcycles must keep pace with The future.
What makes a motorcycle autonomous?
Self-driving vehicles have a number of similar characteristics. Light Detection and Range (LIDAR) technology is one of these standard features. It's a little device located on the rooftops of autonomous vehicles. Unfortunately, LIDAR cost almost $75,000, which makes them impractical for motorcycles. Instead, most autonomous motorcycles have a variety of innovative tools that make them more comfortable and safer as well. Features like applied artificial intelligence, sensor fusion, and data analytics are all used to increase these bikes' capabilities. For instance, some motorcycles have technology that helps them stay balanced. Others detect the speech, facial features, and motion of the driver. Still, others are able to integrate with smartphone technology, which may come in handy when creating safer infrastructure networks.
Innovative companies taking charge
Autonomous motorcycles are not quite ready forcity streets. But, the same technologies being used on autonomous cars are providing inspiration for bikes as well. So, it's only a matter of time. From helmetless motorcycles to robots, there are several innovative companies that are leading the way in autonomous bikes. They are listed in no particular order:
Although they haven't set a date for the release of a prototype, it's common news that Kawasaki invests in autonomous motorcycle technologies. Take their Kanjo engine, for example. It was designed to interact with its rider. Not only does it understand voice control commands, but it also uses speech recognition to chat to its driver. The system also monitors driver status to ensure safety.
When BMW celebrated its hundredth anniversary, they introduced their Vision Next Hundred as well. One of its tenets was their C1 self-riding motorcycle with GPS sensors, self-balancing technologies, and autonomous software. It also comes with futuristic glasses that provide its driver with road safety information. But, do you want to know the best part? This motorbike has zero emissions.
The introduction of Honda's Riding Assist E-motorcycle shows that they are making great progress in terms of autonomous motorcycle technology. One of this bike's best features is how it balances itself at low speeds and while standing still. It's quite remarkable really. Instead of using gyroscopes, it adjusts its wheels base and four angles to keep balance. The Riding Assist Technology also lets the bike park itself. Features like this are not only convenient, they are safer as well.
This company is exploring a couple of different tactics for their autonomous motorcycle technology research. Their primary project is called Motoroid. It uses a combination of autonomous motorcycle features and applied artificial intelligence to improve the user experience. Some of these features include rider movement detection, facial recognition, and autonomous parking abilities. It can also pick itself off its kickstand and move towards its driver. Another of Yamaha's creations is called Motobot. It is a robot motorcycle rider that can compete with world-class motorcycle riders. In fact, the Motobot hit speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour during one such competition.
Not too long ago, Ford filed a patent application for an integrated, electric motorcycle. This two-in-one concept is a little more out there. It is an autonomous motorcycle attached to a car. Are you are a fan of The Dark Knight. Do you remember his Batpod motorcycle? It’s a bike that detaches from the car to let its driver enjoy the road.
The Bottom Line
Autonomous motorcycles are probably not going to hit the market for a couple of years. But, the companies listed above are making a lot of headway to bringing that concept to fruition much sooner than previously thought.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker