We have talked a great deal about autonomous vehicles here at Asphalt & Rubber, but usually the focus of that discussion has been about how autonomous four-wheel vehicles will interact with non-autonomous two-wheeled vehicles.
The time was sure to come though when a motorcycle OEM played with the idea of autonomous motorcycles, and that time is now.
Releasing early details about its autonomous motorcycle program, Honda Motor Corp. is staggeringly close to making the act of riding a motorcycle as simple as selecting a destination, and holding on tight.
As seen above, the testing platform is based off the Honda CBR1000RR, in order to rapidly develop the more complex software packages that will operate and “ride” the motorcycle.
Honda tells us that the consumer version will be more refined though, and absent of any hand or foot controls for the
Developing the core technology in MotoGP, HRC has been able to slowly bring more and more of the actions required in Grand Prix racing into the realm of the computer, to the point now where riders Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez are just holding the throttle open to go faster and tapping the brake lever to slow down.
Like in MotoGP, the Honda prototype uses Inertial Movement Units (IMUs), lean-angle sensors, and wheel-spin detectors to determine the correct use of throttle and brake to actually apply to the motorcycle on the race course or roadway.
This partially explains the winning nature of the Honda RC213V, widely regarded as the most sophisticated GP machine, and certainly helps explain the almost super-human abilities of rider Marc Marquez, who is said to be developing the most recent version of the riding software.
Adding in technology already found in the automobile sector, such as road navigation software and lane-following sensors, Honda is said to be very close to releasing a teaser “prototype” machine, perhaps as early as the November EICMA show.
“When it comes to modern vehicle safety, the rider is the weakest link when it comes to operating a motorcycle,” said Honda PR Officer Akira Kaneda Tetsuo. “Our goal is to mitigate the risk of riding a motorcycle with this MotoGP-derived technology so Honda motorcycles are the safest motorcycles on the road.”
While the first-generation machines will “read” the road and conditions in order to deliver the passenger safely to their destination, Honda says a second-generation hive-mind version is in the works, where both Honda autonomous cars and Honda motorcycles will talk to each other in order to create a safer road environment.
“With the ability for autonomous ‘MotoBots’ to talk to each other, Honda motorcycles will have an added edge over similar releases from other manufacturers,” said Akira Kaneda Tetsuo.
“It also means that group rides can easily be co-ordinated, as with the simple push of the ‘pack’ button can allow a group of MotoBots to follow a leader bike around, just like on a real group motorcycle ride.”
Tetsuo would not confirm that Honda’s product road map includes a VR experience, where riders ride their motorcycles from the safety of their living rooms, while experiencing the sensation of the ride through VR googles and speakers that stream live from the remotely driven motorcycle.
The PR officer did say that Honda was looking closely at how younger generations used video games, and how mimicking those actions could be the way to bring younger riders into the motorcycle industry. Time will tell if that strategy pans out for the two-wheeled behemoth.