Yamaha’s awesome motorcycle-racing robot challenges real racers

Japanese motorcycle giant Yamaha has unveiled an ambitious humanoid, chopper-riding robot that they hope will be able to ride an unmodified vehicle around a racetrack at speeds exceeding 200 km per hour—and it’s already called out a flesh-and-blood world champion.

The autonomous mechanical motorcycle rider is known as Motobot, and according to Mashable and the Verge, it was unveiled in a big way at the Tokyo Motor Show as the company showed a video of it turning, tapping the clutch, and twisting the throttle while remaining upright.

Of course, the robot currently uses stabilizers—training wheels, if you will—but that didn’t stop Yamaha from having it call out MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi, with Motobot stating that it was “created to surpass” Rossi and was “improving [its] skills every day.” No word yet as to when (or even) if such a showdown would take place, but here’s hoping!

Motorbot could improve driver safety

For now, Yamaha is focused on improving its robotic driver with an eye towards that 200 km per hour goal. The company has not revealed exactly how quickly Motobot currently travels while it rides, but they emphasized the project was designed in part to help improve driver safety.

“Controlling the complex motions of a motorcycle at high speeds requires a variety of control systems that must function with a high degree of accuracy,” the company said in a statement. “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.”

The Verge reported that Yamaha is moving slowly with Motobot, and that as is typically the case with high-concept technology, they intend to apply the data collected to improve their existing line of products. Ideally, Motorbot would make motorcycles safer, and officials at the company suggest that the robot could also one day provide an alternative to driverless cars.

“If a society where driverless cars are prevalent is happy and safe, then I want to make it happen quickly,” Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley, Inc. CEO Hiroshi Saijou said to Reuters on Thursday. “In order to make that happen quickly, tuning cars isn’t enough, because you need to repurchase everything. Our concept is that, if you put this robot in your car, your car will drive itself from tomorrow. That’s the kind of world I want to create.”


Feature Image: Yamaha

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