Motorcycles

Self-driving scooter to save riders from self-driving cars

Self-driving scooter to save r...
The AB Dynamics self-driving scooter is built on a BMW C1 scooter, fitted with outriggers, GPS gear, self-driving robotics and sensors
The AB Dynamics self-driving scooter is built on a BMW C1 scooter, fitted with outriggers, GPS gear, self-driving robotics and sensors
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AB's self-driving scooter executes a quick overtaking move on a self-driving car
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AB's self-driving scooter executes a quick overtaking move on a self-driving car
Driverless motorcycles could perform a valuable role in autonomous car systems development, allowing cars to learn how to deal with bikes without putting test riders at risk
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Driverless motorcycles could perform a valuable role in autonomous car systems development, allowing cars to learn how to deal with bikes without putting test riders at risk
The AB Dynamics self-driving scooter is built on a BMW C1 scooter, fitted with outriggers, GPS gear, self-driving robotics and sensors
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The AB Dynamics self-driving scooter is built on a BMW C1 scooter, fitted with outriggers, GPS gear, self-driving robotics and sensors

The benefits of self-driving technology for cars and trucks is obvious, but the applications for autonomous technology on vehicles of the two-wheeled variety are a little harder to fathom. All the weather and road rash exposure of a motorcycle, but none of the fun? What's the point? Turns out there's a very good one, and it's all about improving the safety of driverless cars.

Typically being more unpredictable than other vehicles on the road, motorbikes pose a unique challenge for autonomous cars. They're more maneuverable, accelerate much more rapidly, travel in between lanes of traffic and generally do all sorts of things that could confuse an algorithm as much as they confuse human drivers sometimes.

So, in an effort to allow autonomous vehicles to be exposed to motorcycles in realistic conditions, without putting human riders at risk, British company AB Dynamics has been developing a riderless motorcycle.

AB's self-driving scooter executes a quick overtaking move on a self-driving car
AB's self-driving scooter executes a quick overtaking move on a self-driving car

The bike itself is a BMW C1 scooter, chosen for its automatic transmission, ABS system, and rain-busting roof structure, which serves as a handy place to mount various sensors. It's been fitted out with an on-board robot controller, radio control software, GPS and other sensors that allow its movements to be pre-planned using AB's autonomous vehicle software.

The team is using it to run its tests accurately, repeatably and in a risk-free manner, and sees a growing role for this kind of technology as self-driving cars become more advanced and commonplace.

"Future legislation and vehicle safety testing could require ADAS systems and autonomous vehicles to be validated in increasingly complex scenarios and the riderless motorcycle is a useful tool for achieving this," says AB's Dr. Richard Simpson, senior systems engineer. "It could also have applications in motorcycle durability testing by removing the human rider from some of the more arduous tests over rough surfaces, such as pave, where cars already use robot drivers to eliminate driver fatigue."

As long as they don't expect us to start handing in our Triumph and Suzuki keys, we're all for this kind of thing. And it'll certainly be interesting for motorcyclists when autonomous cars become more and more prevalent – it's not beyond the realms of possibility that they'll have a very generous and risk-averse nature that canny bikers will try to exploit for their own benefit in traffic.

The video below shows the technology demonstrator working with a self driving car on a series of maneuvers, such as overtaking and intersection management, as well as demonstrating its ability to self-balance and perform tight cornering at slow speeds.

Source: AB Systems

Driverless Motorbike

6 comments
snave
The choice of a redundant motorcycle no longer made precisely because it lacks the manoeuvrability of a `real` scooter suggests AB System either made a poor choice of donor vehicle, or had to... The European Commission will throw ANY lie at the argument that justifies what they plan `down the pipe`... The essence is, if autonomous cars can't deal with motorcycles they can't deal with bicycles and are not yet fit for mixed use on public roads cannot be lost on all newatlas viewers.
History Nut
Back when the original DARPA "Grand Challenge" for autonomous vehicles occurred, I was a volunteer at that event. One entrant was a motorcycle. While it couldn't get past the qualification stage, the creator of it had a video of it working in an open field. I have often wondered if the concept for motorcycles would progress. It appears that the idea has seen advancement.
ljaques
Two things I didn't see in the video were: 1) braking by the car when the scooter was directly in front of its path and 2) evasive maneuvering by the scooter if the car decided to pass the invisible truck while the scooter was passing the car. Hopefully, they're working on all of this, too. Judging by the stupidity of scooter riders in YT vids, it'll take more than a lot to make them safe. Motorcyclists, on the whole, are exponentially more aware and faster to react than scooter riders.
AngryPenguin
Getting closer and closer to having a robot horse.
Aross
All this talk about autonomous vehicles being almost here in my opinion is way too premature. It will take a lot of effort to overcome the unpredictability of humans and the environment and those very stupid high speed,60 mph, country lanes in the UK. Drove there last year in a car that had lane assist. I spent more time fighting the car to keep from hitting the sides then enjoying the trip. I suspect that AOVs will only become a safe reality when every vehicle on the road is directly connected to each other and the humans taken out of the loop. But then there will always be the blue screen of death?
Mivoyses
"The benefits of self-driving technology for cars and trucks is obvious." And those are? Maybe I'm old, maybe my priorities are different. But driving a 2500lb vehicle needs someone, a "person", there to interact with the unexpected. And if you start on about how autonomous vehicles would be safer and save lives, maybe we should stop putting so much tech gizmo distractions in vehicles. Bet that step alone would save lives. Oh wait, I forgot, we can't do that. How would people today survive without constant contact and self-image reinforcement from their social groups.