How would you react if you were overtaken by this self-riding bike?
If you’re still trying to get your head around the inevitability of autonomous cars, prepare to have your melon twisted even further. See, for CES (the techfest currently going down in Sin City) BMW has unveiled a self-riding motorbike. Hit the spooky music, people.
As you can see in the pictures above, the sight of a self-stabilising riderless BMW R 1200 GS is a little bit freaky. The fact that it can also independently drive off, accelerate, circle a winding test track, complete figure of eights, slow down and kick out a stand when coming to a stop is a little bit scary. Saying that, it’ll make the Mod 1 section of the UK bike test (the dreaded low-speed manoeuvres in a five a side football cage) a lot easier.
How does this witchcraft work? Well, there are panniers full of widgets and gizmos to make sure the bike doesn’t topple over. All these wires and motherboards communicate to a steering actuator motor, clutch, throttle and gears (plus an automatic sidestand) that keep it upright. Unlike Honda’s self-driving bike, there are no fancy gyros spinning, or extending steering heads. But to anyone who has been through childhood and shouted ‘ghostride the bike!’ as they jumped off the saddle of their pushbike, the idea of an autonomous bike has been around for years. The fact that a big, heavy adventure bike now has a mind of its own, proves one day we’ll have to surrender to the robots.
Luckily, BMW says that it has no intention to manufacture a fully-autonomous motorbike, rather this is merely a platform for the development of future tech to make motorcycling even safer by being able to react when some wally pulls out in front of you. So you’ll have to wait a while to be spooked by a man on his motorbike magically filtering through rush hour traffic while reading a copy of Andy McNab. Although, that’s something we’d quite like to see.
STORY Rowan Horncastle