Next Big Thing

Bike-riding Robot Turns Heads at Tokyo Motor Event Nov 19, 2015

Every day robots seem to learn new skills that make them more human like. At this years Tokyo Motor Show 2015, Yamaha tried to steal the show with their new motorcycle-riding robot know as Motobot. The promotional video that was published along with the demonstration featured this daredevil bot introducing himself with a boyish, “I am Yamaha Motobot.”

After the show Patrick George wrote in Lanesplitter-Jalopnik, “At the Tokyo Motor Show today, Yamaha dropped a bombshell on both the bike world and humanity in general with Motobot: the motorcycle-riding robot that’s not as fast as a human being yet. Yet. One day it aims to be.”

From all accounts Yamaha has succeeded in creating a fusion between Yamaha’s motorcycle and robotics technologies. The research and development team are now trying to take their creation to the next level by creating robot that can ride an unmodified motorcycle around a racetrack at over 200 km/h. The debut in Tokyo used Yamaha’s YZF-R1M machine, that used a modified motorcycle that was designed specifically for the robot. To detach the two machines, Yamaha needs to deliver control systems for that can function with a high degree of accuracy. “As it is built to ride an unmodified motorcycle, Motobot will need to have full control over the throttle, brake lever and pedal, clutch and transmission, not to mention steering (Motobot’s “legs” appear to be firmly fixed in position,)” said Dennis Chung in Motorcycle.com.

Jamie Wisniewski, associate editor of ECN, also explained the significance of focusing on accurate control systems. “Controlling complex motions at high speeds requires a variety of control systems that must function with a high degree of accuracy. Meaning, one wrong move and this robot’s a goner.”

Once people got over the initial wow-factor of the robot, they quickly began to ask, “why?” The economic advantage of having driverless cars, buses and trucks are obvious, but what is the advantage of having a robot that can ride a bike. It would be easier to design and build a driverless bike, than to build a robot that can ride one. “Could throngs of these RoboCop-like machines patrol the interstates of the future? That seems a long way off,” mused Jay Bennett in Popular Mechanics.

Yamaha defended their move by saying that they want to use the fundamental technology and knowhow gained from the project to create advanced rider safety and rider-support systems that can be applied to their current businesses. They are also hopeful that they will be able to spin off new lines of business. So, as the future of Motobots begins to collide with the present, we look forward to the opportunities that it will create, not only for humanity, but for every person in it.

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