Hoping to pressure Harley-Davidson into keeping its production in the United States, President Trump this weekend tweeted words of encouragement to riders who planned to boycott the American motorcycle brand. This shouldn’t be too surprising, considering that Harley-Davidson has increasingly found itself at odds with the White House, primarily over President Trump’s trade negotiations and agreements. The tension started with the United States withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, and reached a boiling point when President Trump imposed tariffs on aluminum and steel. Now with Harley-Davidson signaling its plans to create a new business plan for the 21st century, the Trump Administration is increasing the pressure for Harley-Davidson to maintain the status quo.
Ultimately, I think we are going to come back to this story several times over the next few weeks, as there is so much going on here, from such a simple thing, that one story just won’t do it all justice. To start things off though, let’s look at the basics…as the BMW Group recently hosted what it called the BMW Group Digital Day 2018, which was basically a showcase for all the cool technologies that the Bavarians are using to create a digital frontier that will reshape the human condition. Most of the technology concerns BMW’s automotive business, but there was one little tidbit that could be of interest for motorcycle fans: the 3D printed frame for a BMW S1000RR superbike. Built using additive manufacturing technology, a chassis is created a computer file and metal dust.
Bigfoot. Nessie. Roswell…these are the great myths of our time. In the motorcycle industry, we can add another one to the list: a scooter from Ducati. It has been often talked about in enthusiast and media circles, and it has often been denied by Ducati’s higher-ups.
Today we get some news from Ducati that a scooter is on the way, and more, as Edouard Lotthé (Managing Director of Ducati Western Europe) confirmed not only a Ducati scooter project, but also Ducati’s electric future, in an interview with France’s Moto-Station.
Episode 64 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and celebrates another trip around the sun for our lovely podcast…and one of its hosts.
In the show, we talk about Harley-Davidson’s vanishing motorcycle sales, which could be a canary in the mine for the future of the American motorcycle industry.
We also look at two intriguing models that Yamaha will debut at the Tokyo Motor Show: version of the Yamaha Motobot and the Yamaha MOTOROid concept – both which are intriguing machines, with tragic names.
Our show wraps up with KTM’s launch of the new Freeride E-XC electric dirt bike, and what it means for the future of the Austrian brand, and where transportation is headed.
There’s plenty for everyone in this show, and we think you’ll enjoy it.
You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.
Episode 63 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and it is a massive deep dive into the future of transportation and the rise of electric motorcycles.
But before we get back, to the future, we first talk about Jensen’s recent trip to California, to ride the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 (named after a university district of Venice, Italy – by the way) and the Aprilia Shiver 900.
From there, our discussion turns into a impromptu deep conversation about electric vehicles, urban infrastructure, global politics, and the future of transportation.
You may remember the LEGO Technic set of the BMW R1200GS Adventure motorcycle that we featured not too long ago. Now the German automotive brand and Danish toymaker have collaborated to bring an “alternative model” to the 603-piece building block toy set. Making the R1200GS Adventure model toy now a 2-in-1 kit, the collaboration between BMW and Lego has produced a futuristic flying motorcycle called the Hover Ride Design Concept. Interestingly enough, the BMW Junior Company – a BMW Group training unit – will build a full-size replica of what this flying R1200GS could look like (complete with its boxer engine, which of course makes perfect sense).
A few months ago, we told you that Kawasaki was working on an artificial intelligence system for motorcycles, and while the term “artificial intelligence” is thrown around too liberally, the proposal from Team Green was an interesting one for the Japanese manufacturer.
Details were light at the time, but now Kawasaki has released a demo video showing how it sees its “A.I.” system working with motorcyclists.
The demo isn’t too compelling, with many of the features being just an implementation of vehicle-to-vehcile systems with a voice-command veneer tacked on top of it, but it does show that Kawasaki is feigning interest into what the future will hold for motorcyclists.
The question will be though, when true artificial intelligence hits the mainstream, will our robot overlords be more like JARVIS or HAL 9000?
So, this is what the future is going to look like. “Drivers” will hop into their cars, and zip around town, without paying any attention to the road in front of them. Cynics might say that already happens, but this scenario is about to move from hyperbole to reality very, very quickly, in a very, very interesting way.
When I say it will be interesting, I mean it in the old Chinese curse of “may you live in interesting times” sort of way.
Autonomous vehicles are going to usher in a revolution for transportation. They will change the way we commute, and change the way goods are transported. They will reduce on-road fatalities in motor vehicles, while also increasing the ethical concerns of transportation. It will be interesting.
For motorcyclists, it’s not clear what this all means. Motorcycles might become the two-wheeled escape from the autonomous grind, pushing our industry further into the “consumer discretionary income” realm and novelty. We should ask ourselves: is this a good thing?
It’s also just as easy to imagine a world where “unsafe” non-autonomous vehicles get outlawed, if for no other reason than the divergence they pose to the system.
Our one saving grace is that autonomous vehicle technology has to grow up in a world where it is several standard deviations outside of the norm. Pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, etc do not feed into the system that pilots a car like the Tesla Models S, shown in the video after the jump.
Instead, these vehicles have to evolve and grow-up in a world that doesn’t cater to them. That’s interesting too, but more so when you look at how a Tesla Model S perceives the environment around it – reading road signs, assessing objects in its path, understanding the markings of its environment.
It’s something to think about on your commute today.
Fresh as an MBA graduate, in the very early days of Asphalt & Rubber, I had an interview with a prominent Fortune 500 company that was well-known for its 100 year plan.
This was a topic of conversation during my job interview, as I found it intriguing that a company could even pretend to predict what the world will look like in 100 years.
To find the arrogance in this notion, imagine the trying to predict things like social media, cell phones, the internet, automobiles, commercial flying, and space travel…all at the turn of the 20th century.
With the rate of change we have seen in the past 100 years, apply that same trend to the next 100 years, and you will see how futile such a prediction can be. What don’t know what we don’t know, in this regard.
So, it’s with some amusement that we share with you today BMW Motorrad’s vision for motorcycling in the next 100 years.
The German brand calls its the BMW Motorrad VISION NEXT 100, and says that the concept “embodies the BMW Group’s vision of biking in a connected world – an analogue experience in a digital age.”
Motorcyclists often romanticize about their bikes, talking about a motorcycle’s personality, or lack thereof. This is total bullshit by the way, but there is something to be said about the connection between man and machine, as it is the same emotional bond that makes one a devout believer of one brand, and detractor to another. Usually we make these connections through something visceral, like the sound of an engine, the power going down the road, or the handling of the chassis. Rarely does one speak about a motorcycle’s personality in the same breath as its electronics, but that might change. This is because Kawasaki is working on an artificial intelligence (AI) project that will see its motorcycles grow and evolve personalities to compliment its owners.