No sooner has Google built its first autonomous car, and been granted its autonomous vehicle driving license in the State of California, than the Silicon Valley company has begun paving the way for autonomous two-wheeled transportation.

Writing an email to the State of California to do away with legal wording that restricts autonomous vehicle licenses just to cars, Google’s Ron Medford hopes to allow driverless/riderless trucks and motorcycles on city streets, provided they prove the same safety standards as with Google’s autonomous car program.

“It is certainly possible that future testing could include motorcycles or larger commercial vehicles,” said Medford in his email. “If some innovator can demonstrate that testing autonomous technology on such vehicles is safe, then they should be allowed to test.”

The reason for the letter is simple, trucks and motorcycles have greater commercial application in the real world. Autonomous vehicles have heavy implications in long-distance shipping via tractor-trailer, and urban delivery services could benefit greatly from autonomous two-wheelers (especially in California’s lane-sharing environment) — think of it as competitor for Amazon’s drone delivery service.

Autonomous vehicles are a topic we have talked a great deal about here at Asphalt & Rubber, and rightfully so. The implications of this technology are huge not only for motorcycling, but for society as a whole.

Their adoption means changes in the way we see transportation in the future, they have implications on how we use motor vehicles for recreation going forward, and they mean sweeping changes to the legal dynamic regarding vehicles.

The big debate for motorcyclists though has been how autonomous vehicle will interact with non-autonomous vehicles, namely how will an autonomous vehicle handle coming across the very dynamic traffic patterns of a motorcyclist? It’s a question we posed two years ago, and thankfully an issue that the MIC and AMA have finally taken interest in as well.

The crux of the debate is whether autonomous vehicles will adapt to the current traffic landscape, or whether they will dictate their own. There is also the discussion of how the transportation will evolve over time, and the very real possibility that it could threaten motorcycling as we know it.

While the technology involved is exciting, the implications of it are a bit daunting, especially if motorcyclist groups stand idly by. And of course, there is the whole SkyNet debate that we haven’t even touched upon…

Source: The Sunday Times

  • paulus

    The image you used is exactly what I pictured when first hearing about autonomous motorcycles.
    I guess the future will be less terminators and more pizza delivery usage.

  • smiler

    I wish those successful eggheads in Silicon Valley would just stick to providing people with efficient software rather than dabbling in trying to build a legacy by changing the world and rescuing humaity from itself.

  • crshnbrn

    re: “While the technology involved is exciting, the implications of it are a bit daunting, especially if motorcyclist groups stand idly by.”

    What else are we supposed to do if resistance is futile?

  • n/a

    Google are a pack of dirty b*****d’s.

    They need to be stopped, before they ruin the future!

  • proudAmerican

    I can see it now: A bunch of hard-core, stretched chopper motorcycles that drive themselves to Sturgis–no trailer required! :-)

  • Jonathan

    Destroy the machines!

  • Jensen, thanks for continuing to cover this. Like it or not, motorcycle enthusiasts need to be paying attention.

  • Bermuda

    Let’s not all gather our torches and pitchforks, this is little more than Google trying to provide themselves with the ability to try new things.

    The current legislation states that very specific vehicles can be tested, which is limiting for no reason other than to be limiting. Just because Google is asking for the laws to be changed does not mean that they have some super secret Skynet bike in the works.

    Sure, you can bet they eventually will. Both self driving motorcycles and large trucks. But they are trying to get this hurdle out of the way to prepare for when they are ready to test, so they don’t end up revealing their big plans like everyone assumes they are doing now. It’s a preemptive measure, and frankly is one which should be welcomed. Less restrictions on innovation.

    Besides, any rider worth their weight in motor oil won’t care. Just because they will exist does not mean they will suddenly be the only option to anyone who wants to straddle two wheels. It will be a slow change, once which will be seen in real time, which we then can resits. Also, we’ll need to come to terms with fully electrics bikes well before that, because you can bet a fully autonomous bike will be purely electric.


  • Eddie don’t thank me…I just want to be on the good-side of our robot overlords when the revolution comes.

  • L2C

    And everyone will work part-time jobs.

    Cue: Donald Fagen “I.G.Y.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sogYgHlNnqo

  • Let’s not all gather our torches and pitchforks, this is little more than Google trying to provide themselves with the ability to try new things.

    Google specifically isn’t the problem here. The issue is the dangerous precedent that autonomous vehicles present. There’s a thin line between allowing autonomous vehicles and requiring them. With the risk-averse culture that is North America now, it’s only a matter of time before business and politics work the FUD machine to outlaw humans piloting vehicles. North Americans are used to being corralled into forgoing freedoms in the name of safety since 9/11. This tech is just another step in the wrong direction.

    Now, where did my tinfoil get to anyway?