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.