The automotive industry is fascinated by the idea of self-driving cars and the convenience and safety benefits they will eventually provide.
A self-driving motorcycle sounds terrifying, but BMW's autonomous bike isn't supposed to ever drive on public roads - it's only for safety research. In it, the driverless motorcycle starts its engine and then takes off down a track. It even handles turns and braking to a full stop, and it props itself up without spilling over. Several projects are in the works, including Yamaha's Motobot, which features a humanoid robot rider, and the Honda Riding Assist concept that can balance itself while stationary and move at speeds of up to 3 miles per hour thanks to a small electric motor in the front wheel hub.
BMW also anticipates the adoption of V2V (vehicle to vehicle) communication - where computers talk to each other, and potentially infrastucture like traffic lights - to avoid collisions and keep motorcycle riders safe among heavy traffic.
The technology in development could one day help riders determine at an early stage if a situation will become unsafe and enable dynamic control programs to show the safest ways around those obstacles. The bike would become able to analyze whether a rider is at risk and, like in a vehicle, warn or intervene to avoid a crash.
There is still ways to go before motorcycle safety technologies catch up to the ones already offered in cars-that is if you're the kind of rider who would welcome these systems with open arms. In this project, it was not our goal to develop a fully automated motorcycle. Watch the testing for yourself in the video above, and know it's not a ghost aboard the bike; it's simply self-riding technology.