The Droids Are Coming: Yamaha Develops Motorcycle-Riding Robot

Self-driving cars, meet self-riding motorcycles.

We’ve already seen that autonomous cars can set impressive times around race tracks, and now there’s fresh competition in the two-wheeled realm. Yamaha is working on a humanoid robot called, appropriately enough, Motobot, that can ride a high-performance motorcycle.

Looking like a futuristic rider out of Tron, Motobot straps onto a Yamaha YZF-R1M motorcycle, which packs a 197-hp punch from its 998-cc (1.0-liter) inline-four engine. The robot has six actuators that let it balance and control the motorcycle just as a human would, with “feet” operating the rear brake and shifter, and “hands” managing the throttle, steering, clutch, and front brake. Built-in high-resolution GPS and other sensors allow Motobot to navigate tracks at high speeds.

Yamaha’s goal for 2015 was to have Motobot able to race around tracks at speeds up to 62 mph. By 2017, the company wants the robotic rider to manage average speeds of 124 mph around tracks. The robot is supposed to be able to “make its own decisions” about the ideal racing line around each circuit. Yamaha also intends the robot to be able to hop on any regular motorcycle that’s intended for human riders, without needing any specific modifications for autonomous use.

Yamaha says that developing Motobot will help it further its research into robots of all types, and to come up with better systems for controlling human-driven motorcycles. Take a look at Motobot’s current performance in the video below.