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Riderless motorbikes may have advantages

It seems ridiculous that there could be any advantages to riders in developing a riderless motorcycle, yet there are several manufacturers and companies developing them.

They say the advantages are proving whether motorcycles can exist safely around autonomous vehicles and testing motorcycles for durability without endangering the life of a human rider.

There could also be a future for riderless courier motorcycles and scooters in congested cities.

Among those developing the technology are Yamaha who have developed a Motobot ridden by a robot, and Honda and BMW who have been developing bikes that are self-balancing.

Honda's self-balancing motorcycle - short
Honda’s self-balancing motorcycle

Now comes this riderless BMW C12 scooter developed by British company AB Dynamics to “help improve motorcycle safety” and prove that motorcycles can interact with autonomous vehicles. 

Automated advantages

It’s all part of the mad rush toward automated vehicles that some believe will solve our transport and road safety problems.

AB Dynamics spokesmen Dr Richard Simpson says there are several advantages for riders in this technology apart from Advanced Rider Assistance System (ARAS) development, testing and validation.

He says motorcycles have a unique problem interacting with autonomous vehicles because of their speed and manoeuvrability, unlike slower-moving pedestrians and cyclists.

Their riderless scooter has the full performance potential of the original, enabling more dynamic interactions to be tested, such as overtaking and lane filtering.

This is important as a lane-filtering rider was hit by an autonomous car in San Francisco last year.Riderless motorbikes may have advantages - AB Dynamics

Dr Simpson says their riderless scooter permits “greater accuracy, repeatability and consistency between tests than any human rider could achieve”.

“This motorcycle is another excellent tool to complement our other testing equipment for autonomous and ADAS development,” he says.

“Future legislation and vehicle safety testing could require ADAS systems and autonomous vehicles to be validated in increasingly complex scenarios and the riderless motorcycle is a useful tool for achieving this.

“It could also have applications in motorcycle durability testing by removing the human rider from some of the more arduous tests over rough surfaces, such as pave, where cars already use robot drivers to eliminate driver fatigue.”

Tech detailsRiderless motorbikes may have advantages - AB Dynamics

Here is the technical detail from their official press release:

Mechanical integration of the riderless systems was carried out by a technology start-up company, AutoRD. AB Dynamics integrated its on-board robot controller, which runs the company’s standard RC software, allowing programming of the motion of the motorcycle and path-following via GPS positioning, just like a car driven by the company’s robots AB Dynamics’ cross-platform Synchro technology allows coordination of the bike with other moving objects, such as cars or ADAS targets, and synchronises all data generated, enabling later review. For ease of conversion, the technology demonstrator used a BMW C1 motorcycle which has ABS, no manual clutch and a roof structure, convenient for mounting sensors. Subsequent developments will use a more modern machine with greater performance.

AB Dynamics hopes to sell its technology to those working in ADAS development and those developing tests for self-driving cars.