Sci-fi movies and books have long given us the idea that sooner or later, the machines would take over the world. We shrug our shoulders and laugh it off, sometimes. But then we see examples of machines replacing pilots, like with drones. We see robots doing the jobs of hundreds of workers on assembly lines. Vacuum cleaners that go off and do their work without you. We see robot dogs even. Come on, not man’s best friend too. And of course we keep hearing about and seeing video and images of driverless cars. Where does it end? And were all these Hollywood movies like Teminator, iRobot, War of the Worlds, and even Star Wars, actually on point? Letting us know that robots were going to be doing almost everything we do?
The driverless car has certainly become much more real to us all. We aren’t fully ready to trust a computer/robot driven machine, but we are indeed coming to accept that it is just a matter of time before they are next to us regularly on the road. But Yamaha has taken this a step farther than most of us moto enthusiasts might have even imagined. They have built a robot that actually rides motorcycles. And rides them well.
At the recent Tokyo Motor Show Yamaha introduced the world to a motobot that showed what it can do on Yamaha’s 1000cc R1M. The robot, which they built in humanoid style, which is both cool and creepy and the same time, is part of Yamaha’s work to get to a place where one of these bots can take a regular bike on any unmodified race track anywhere. With that being said, it is not Yamaha’s intent to create motobots that one day compete with human riders in Superbike or MotoGP races. Though come on, it has to be the obvious challenge one day, to pit one of the humanoids against a very real rider to see who would win. Trust me that day is coming.
But for now Yamaha says they are doing this work with the motobot as a means to make better motorcycles. “”We want to apply the fundamental technology and know-how gained in the process of this challenge to the creation of advanced rider safety and rider-support systems and put them to use in our current businesses, as well as using them to pioneer new lines of business,” Yamaha said in a press release.
I don’t really get how a robot will help build a better motorcycle for a human, but that’s just me. Seems to me that’s why we have pro racers and test riders. To provide feedback on every little thing they experience and pass on their thoughts on what would make the ride better, faster and safer for them. The motobot doesn’t really care about comfort, styling. Doesn’t feel a tingle in their chest or heart when something doesn’t feel right or conversely, feels absolutely exhilarating.
But according to Yamaha’s website, here is how they see it:
“Based on data for vehicle speed, engine rpm, machine attitude, etc., MOTOBOT will control its six actuators* to autonomously operate the vehicle. Going forward, technology for machine position recognition (high-precision GPS, various sensors, etc.) and machine learning will be utilized to enable MOTOBOT to make its own decisions regarding the best lines to take around a racetrack and the limits of the motorcycle’s performance, so that it can improve its lap times with successive laps of the track. From this project, we will be able to visualize data about human motorcycle operation, deduce the relationship between rider input and machine behavior, and then use the resulting know-how in developing vehicles for creating even greater [machine].”
Ok. I got it. I guess all that makes sense. Somehow. And it is definitely cool seeing the motobot take the bike on the track. But while it looks cool, and kind of scary and weird, I can’t help but wonder what will these robots be doing next?