Amongst a variety of other unveils at the 45th annual Tokyo Motor Show this week, Yamaha displayed its latest version of Motobot, Ver.2. If you’re not already familiar with the Motobot, it’s an endeavor that Yamaha and SRI International have put their heads together on to create “a humanoid robot capable of autonomously riding a motorcycle around a racetrack.” The project began in 2015 when the Motobot Ver.1’s first objective was to run a top speed of 100 kph (62 mph) as well as navigate a slalom course and turn through a corner. Check, check and check.

Flash forward two years and Motobot Ver.2’s aspirations have grown to not only exceed 200 kph, but to challenge Yamaha’s factory-backed MotoGP rider, one of the most successful motorcycle racers in history, Valentino Rossi, to a race. Uhh… what?! Now this challenge may seem crazy, and that’s because it is, but Yamaha just released this video of its ‘man vs. machine’ duel and the results are quite impressive.

Fortunately, us humans won’t have to worry about becoming slaves to our robot overlords just yet, as Rossi was able to easily beat the Motobot around Thunderhill Raceway’s two-mile West course with a lap time of 85.740 seconds to the Motobot’s 117.504. While a 30+ second margin may seem like a disappointing result for the Motobot on paper, the progress and technological data Yamaha and SRI engineers have captured is incredible.

This man vs. machine contest might seem like a publicity stunt, and while it certainly does capture our attention, Yamaha has bigger plans for the future of its autonomous motorcycle-riding robots than just beating The Doctor. Looking forward, Yamaha aims to use the Motobot’s technology to “optimize control of vehicle dynamics to develop higher performing and safer forms of mobility.” What this could potentially mean is that future Motobots could possibly help improve the design and engineering process as well as overall quality and performance of motorcycles. Since they have no regard for their own safety, (presumably) they could test and push equipment to its limit without putting human test riders at risk.

All speculation aside, the Motobot is a neat concept and we’re excited to see where the technology takes us. In this day and age, who knows? But one thing’s for sure – we can expect the Motobot to challenge Valentino to rematch sometime soon.

  • Johnny Blue

    I’m 1/2 okay with creating robots to do our work for us, but I’d kick Motobot in his CPU for attempting to replace us in fun activities. They need to train Motobot in riding lawn mowers and cleaning toilets… leave motorbike riding to humans… we enjoy it.

    • JWaller

      Amen to that!

  • Born to Ride

    Impressive achievement from an engineering standpoint. But there is no reason whatsoever why robots should ride motorcycles.

    • Ozzy Mick

      Replace crazy motorcycle taxi riders in some Asian countries? Nah… the humanoids will be cheaper. How about cops on bikes? Or racers plugged into a simulator with the bot on the bike on the track? Forget it!

  • Mister X

    This is a great use of technology as a way to acquire data and useful algorithms, and I can see it incorporated into bikes as a way to prevent the rider from making a stupid mistake.
    Just like Honda’s new self-balancing technology, I have no problem with that at all, as long as it’s basically transparent to the rider.
    This could be a boon to new riders, and insurance companies, while still allowing the rider a great deal of control over the bike.

    • Johnny Blue

      Part of riding is the act of balancing the bike. If a motorcycle is self balancing it is not transparent to the rider. It will prevent him hitting the ground and being more careful in the future. What’s next? Self riding bikes on which the rider becomes just a passenger? That’s not riding. Riding needs to be focused. That’s why I love it so much. That’s why is also therapeutic, because it demands focus. We have enough things we do mindlessly. No need to add riding to that list.

      • Ozzy Mick

        Saw a clip (sorry, can’t post the link) of a self riding and balancing bicycle one with little kids strapped to it, and another with the rider using her computer while the bike trundled along. I think it was a Google prototype.
        Guess they’re more for cheap transportation, unclogging congested city roads? Not so much for recreation.

  • Old MOron

    Oh well, cool vid.

  • mugwump

    Will this series cause my subscription to Dornan go up? Will MotoGp be considered the support class?

  • Vrooom

    Let me the first to welcome our new robot overlords.

  • StripleStrom

    once the pc nanny state takes over, we will all be passengers, in more than just transportation. maybe I’m going 1984, but I did live then and would like to go back.