If you are riding in California anytime soon, you might want to think twice before blaming the state’s fleet of drivers, as The Golden State just made it legal for self-driving cars to operate without a human behind the wheel.
That is right, the dawn of truly autonomous vehicles has just arrived, and it is primed to change the driving landscape as we know it, which by correlation means changes for the motorcycle community as well.
Say what you will about American politics, but the US House of Representatives has passed the “SELF-DRIVE Act” (H.R. 3388) – a bipartisan bill that would open up autonomous vehicle regulation for manufacturers.
The big advantage of the SELF-DRIVE Act is that it would supersede the varying and ad hoc state rules that manufacturers must currently adhere to while developing their autonomous platforms.
The bill would also do away with some safety standards put in place for vehicles with drivers, such as where the steering wheel and foot pedals must be located.
Lastly, the SELF-DRIVE Act would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to research and develop a way of conveying to consumers the level of automation a vehicle possesses.
When Valentino Rossi was in the US for the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, a little bird told us he would be stopping by Yamaha’s San Francisco offices, where the Yamaha Motobot autonomous riding robot project is coming to life.
It looks like our sources were right, as Yamaha has released a video showing Rossi “meeting” Motobot, at what looks like Thunderhill Raceway, just north of San Francisco.
The video is interesting, because it shows the rapid progress that Yamaha, and its partner SRI International, are making with automated two-wheeled systems.
Yamaha’s Motobot was one of the bigger announcements to come from 2015, with the motorcycle riding humanoid robot promising to garner Yamaha a great deal of information about several key industries, as well as some headlines along the way.
Showing off the Yamaha Motobot at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Yamaha has made public a very ambitious schedule for Motobot, for the coming years. The most daunting task from Yamaha? To have Motobot making laps on a race track by 2017, at over 200 km/h (125 mph).
Let’s face it, we knew this day would come. Technology has finally progressed to the point where our beloved past time of riding motorcycles can now be done by a robot. Sarah Connor was right. Skynet is coming. I, for one, welcome our robot overlords.
As tinfoil hat as we can make this story, let’s be honest…it’s pretty cool that Yamaha is developing a humanoid robot that can ride a motorcycle. It’s sorta creepy, but it’s also really cool.
To help lighten the blow, Yamaha is playing off its “Motobot” with a little bit of humor, having the machine taunt factory MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi, and suggesting that one day the robot will beat the
ten-time nine-time World Champion at what he does best.
That’s fun and all, and it certainly grabs headlines, but the Yamaha Motobot is a really big deal for a lot more reasons that are less obvious than what has been put forth. Let me explain.
Insert the obvious SkyNet joke here, but the future of two-wheeled transportation is constantly moving ahead of us, to a place previously held only by science-fiction.
We have talked here at Asphalt & Rubber a great deal about connected and autonomous vehicles and its related technologies – insert a massive number of links here – and today we just got a little bit closer to all those concepts becoming realized.
Announcing their latest collaboration, BMW, Honda, and Yamaha have agreed to develop cooperative-intelligent transportation systems (C-ITS) for motorcycles, the first step in adding vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication to motorcycles.
The three companies will work together to establish a a consortium named Connected Motorcycle Consortium (CMC), which aims to have C-ITS devices on the three motorcycle brands from 2020 onwards.
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 day may have come sooner than we expected, but the day of commuters being scooted around by self-driving cars is rapidly approaching us. Clocking 300,000 self-driven accident-free miles, Google’s fleet of autonomous vehicles are set to reach another milestone, as the technology company is about to give the go-ahead for employees to use the cars for commuting.
Traditionally driven with one person behind the wheel, and another in the passenger seat (presumably watching a screen of diagnostics), Google says that the results from its tests and track record have shown the two-rider system to be unnecessary, and will thus allow solitary trips in the self-driving vehicles. The idea of course behind the system is that a person becomes a passive driver, able to “be more productive” while in the vehicle, i.e. watching YouTube kitten videos.
While the dozen or so self-driving Google cars are unlikely to make a huge impact (no pun intended) on our local commutes here in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is a signaling of the changing times in our transportation system. For motorcyclists, this news should come as a mixed bag.
Despite the fact that the business side of motorcycling is run by a small close-nit group of curmudgeons, Neanderthals, and Luddites, the world outside of motorcycling continues to press on without us.
And while various parts of the motorcycle industry are busy trying to figure out how to adapt to this whole new “internet” technology fad thing (it has only been commercialized for over two decades now guys), the same group of people are busy trying to maintain the same business models and practices that came from the post-World War II economy.
In other words, when it comes to technology and the motorcycle industry, we are all pretty much fucked.