Honda is well and truly into self-balancing personal transport gear. The U3-X and UNI-CUB unicycle devices are neat, fun little jiggers built to solve a potentially devastating problem Japan is facing earlier than the rest of the world.
Put simply, Japan isn't having enough babies. By 2050, projections show a population with nearly twice as many 70-80 year olds as 20-30 year olds. There won't be enough youngsters to do the work of keeping the country going as well as taking care of the oldies.
So Honda and the rest of the vaunted Japanese robotics industry are scrambling to figure out how to make older people as mobile and independent as possible. Self-balancing walking pace unicycles like the two mentioned above provide last-mile transport assistance that open up most of a city to somebody that can't walk long distances, when you use them in conjunction with public transport.
But once you've got an understanding of a technology, you might as well apply it elsewhere, and that seems to be what's going on with Honda's cutest reveal at this year's CES show in Las Vegas.
Using UNI-CUB technology, Honda has demonstrated a motorcycle with the ability to self-balance, and even self-drive at slow speeds.
The bike appears to be a modified NC750S – a twin-cylinder midrange nakedbike that uses Honda's clutchless automatic dual-clutch transmission. "This Riding Assist does not use large gyroscopes, which would add a lot of weight and limit the bike's ability to maneuver," says Honda's global president of R&D, Yoshiyuki Matsumoto, "It leverages Honda Robotics technology originally developed for the UNI-CUB."
From what we can see, it seems to balance itself mainly by turning the front wheel, an effect that is enhanced by raking out the front forks using a mechanical offset at the lower triple-clamp. The bike happily stands up by itself, or with a rider on board, but it does look like the rider needs to stay pretty still.
The ability to self-balance, plus the auto transmission, also enables another nifty feature: the bike can be set to follow you around like a puppy as you walk, which could end up making it easier to park and navigate through tight spaces. Mind you, it'd need to be pretty smart to get through tighter spaces than a decent rider could manage.
This is not the first self-balancing motorcycle concept we've seen. The Lit Motors C-1 and Thrustcycle Gyrocycle are both in on the action, not to mention BMW Motorrad's wacky Vision Next 100 concept, but it's good to see a major manufacturer like Honda actually build something this far out of the box.
Check out the self-balancing Honda in the video below.
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