This begs the question, why even do it? The Motobot, unveiled this week at the Tokyo Motor Show, can’t be ridden by a human.
Motobot isn’t expected to be a stand-alone product. It’s a way for Yamaha to work toward its vision for autonomous vehicles, in which existing cars and trucks are retrofitted with self-driving capabilities. It thinks this is a quicker way to get autonomous technology to society.
“Autonomous riding without modification on a motorcycle itself has potential to give us another approach to make any kind of vehicle to be autonomous, since all vehicles have an interface for a human,” said Hiro Saijou, the chief executive of Yamaha motor ventures and laboratory.
Yamaha began sending staff members to Silicon Valley in May 2014 and officially opened Saijou’s lab in August.
“We aim to have the potential to make all of vehicle autonomous, not only for motorcycle,” Saijou said. “And autonomous robot for riding motorcycle could be the most challenging and could be great proof of the concept.”
Motobot is also expected to benefit Yamaha because it offers quantifiable, precise measurements of a bike’s stability, maneuverability and comfort to ride. A human testing out a new motorcycle isn’t going to be as exact.
While Yamaha’s video of Motobot may wow you, it’s important to note this technology is far from ready. Motobot has not yet been driven on public roads. It’s unstable at speeds under 3 mph, and Saijou has a small team of five core members.
The first version of Motobot requires a human present with a remote control to drive it. Yamaha next wants Motobot to be fully autonomous and controlled by GPS and sensors.
So we aren’t close to having Yamaha’s robot drive you to work. But if it ever happens, you wouldn’t have to worry about Motobot texting while driving. After all, his hands are glued to the wheel.