We all know the robots are coming. That probably inspires some complicated feelings. So, it's comforting when a three-year development effort to make a robot that can set a speed record results in a human victory... by a wide margin. Yamaha and robotics developer SRI have been working on a humanoid that can ride an unmodified motorcycle. The goal was to beat the lap times of one of the most successful motorcycle racers of all time, Valentino Rossi.
Honda on Wednesday showcased a new motorcycle that can stand unaided with or without a rider, using technology the firm learned from developing a walking humanoid. Unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show, Honda's Riding Assist-e is an all-electric concept motorbike that constantly assesses its position and moves the steering bar to ensure the heavy machine stays upright. For years, international bike manufacturers have experimented with various forms of gyroscopes to stop motorcycles falling over, said Hiroyuki Nakata, the engineer behind the idea. "But if you wanted to keep something as heavy as a motorcycle standing, you need a large and heavy gyroscopic device and you need to keep turning it," he said. Honda's device, however, is only the size of a lamp and can be rigged above the front wheel.
He said the systems may draw on artificial intelligence jointly developed with a U.S. research body that allows humanoid robots to ride motorcycles. "We want to facilitate driving operations of our motorcycles and reduce the burden on riders to allow them to pay more attention to safety," Yanagi said. Yamaha hopes to reverse slumping domestic sales by adopting advanced technologies to reduce motorcycle accidents such as overturns and collisions. Such risks weigh on potential sales. "We'll use the expertise we've acquired from robots for our motorcycles," Yanagi said.