Yamaha is working on a humanoid, motorcycle-riding robot that engineers say will use machine learning to one day ride better than a world champion human racer.
Dubbed Motobot, the autonomous robot is capable of steering and balancing a racing motorcycle. Riding an unmodified bike, the robot – and its creators -- are being challenged to outrace Italian professional motorcycle racer Valentino Rossi, one of the most successful motorcycle racers in the world and the winner of nine Grand Prix World Championships.
For this year, Yamaha has set a goal of getting the Motobot to corner the bike, run a slalom course and reach speeds of 101 kilometres per hour (kmh).
According to the company, engineers expect that by 2017, they'll figure out what they need to do to make the robot a better racer than any human. They also hope Motobot will be riding at a top speed of 202kmh by then.
Ultimately, Yamaha hopes to use the technology behind the motorcycle-riding robot to advance its other robotics projects and to develop new products.
"Unlike the current methods used for automobile self-driving systems, which have progressed in recent years, the aim is for a humanoid robot to operate a vehicle unmodified for autonomous use," the company said on its website. "Based on data for vehicle speed, engine rpm, machine attitude, etc., Motobot will control its six actuators to autonomously operate the vehicle."
Motobot is designed to be able to autonomously control the bike's steering, throttle, front brake, rear brake, clutch and gearshift pedal. The robot will use machine learning, a GPS system and sensors to enable it to decide which are the best paths to take around the racetrack and the bike's limits so it can improve on its race times and efficiency.
Yamaha said the Motobot can be adapted to operate watercraft and snowmobiles.