July 24, 2024

Yamaha MotoBot a glimpse of the future

Yamaha develops motorcycle-riding MotoBot robot.

About a year ago we were hearing stories that Yamaha had trademarked the name MotoBot, and at the time we all thought we’d eventually see an attempt at an autonomous motorcycle.

But Yamaha surprised everyone at the Tokyo Motor Show because MotoBot is actually a robot built in the shape of a human and designed to be able to eventually ride any motorcycle, completely unaided.

Yamaha MotoBot is designed to mimic the exact actions of a human riding a motorcycle.

To do that it has six actuators that allow it to control steering and throttling, the front and rear brakes, clutch, and the gearshift.

An internal data analysis system processes information from sensors on the robot and in the motorcycle. Using that data, Motobot can steer in proportion with speed, engine function, and changing conditions of the road ahead.

It’s early stages for MotoBot, but already Yamaha has shown the robot riding an R1-M sports bike, modified with training wheels while it improves its own skills.

Yamaha already has three decades of expertise in creating assembly robots for industrial applications, but those robots are generally designed to perform a single task with precision beyond anything a human can achieve.

MotoBot has to be different.

Yamaha’s long term plans for the robot suggest that future versions will be equipped with machine learning capabilities so that it can make its own decisions.

By the end of this year, Yamaha aims to have MotoBot capable of cornering, running a slalom course, and riding in a straight line at up to 100km/h.

By 2017, it wants MotoBot to be able to lap a racetrack at around 200km/h and start to develop capabilities that exceed those of a human rider.

Yamaha will use the technology and knowledge gained in the process to create advanced rider safety and rider-support systems. The company also hopes that MotoBot can be used to help improve track safety protocols.

But the plans extend far beyond just that, as Yamaha hopes to use the technology to also improve its snowmobiles, ATVs, industrial robots, and to also move into new lines of business.

While other companies are focused on creating vehicles capable of autonomous driving, Yamaha has taken a very different approach here.

The hope is that Motobot will be adaptable to other vehicles like snowmobiles and personal watercraft, and for the robot to develop the capabilities to drive a regular vehicle.

Yamaha has released a short promotional video showing MotoBot’s current capabilities, and challenging nine-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi to a race at some stage in the future.

In a cheeky electronic voice, MotoBot admits it is currently nowhere near his skill level, but tells Valentino that it was “created to surpass you”.

Steve McDowall