It’s a scary thought, but there could possibly come a time when racing isn’t contested by humans. Think about it. Technology has been invading racing more and more over the years, with electronic aids drastically transforming the layout as we know it. So what is to stop A.I. from taking over completely? I suspect several factors, but at the moment there is one that stands out more than the rest.
Speed. That’s one of the biggest Achilles heels of the robot revolution. You see, Yamaha is hell-bent on creating a robot that can compete in road racing, at speeds that rival the pros. The only problem, they have a long way to go. With the project called ‘Motobot’, Yamaha has built a humanoid robot that can pilot a completely unmodified R1 all on its own. Motobot sits on the R1 much like a jockey and even weighs a scant 99lbs thanks to its carbon fiber construction. The Motobot uses a slew of complex sensors to achieve incredible tracking, throttle response, and even clutch and brake modulation. But can it do what a well-seasoned human can do? Not even close.
While Motobot is an impressive piece of technology, it’s not even close to being on par with the pros. Using Valentino Rossi as the comparison model, Motobot doesn’t seem to stand a chance. I won’t spoil the official gap, but I can tell you it’s quite the divide. See, Motobot is hindered by one glaring flaw. While the humanoid can articulate the basic controls, it cannot move around on the machine like a traditional rider can. Riding a motorcycle requires constant weight distribution, whether it be from side to side or front to back when braking and accelerating. Motobot loses out in almost every aspect thanks to it’s fixed position, and it shows on the clock.
Even still, it’s unbelievable impressive what the Motobot is capable of. The Motobot actually handles incredibly well considering it can’t lean off the bike, and is capable of setting lap times most of us would be proud of. And this is only the beginning, just imagine how fast it will be in 5 or 10 years. It will never be Rossi, but I’m sure it will be fast.