Yamaha produced somewhat of a surprise at the Tokyo Motor Show today when it showed a motorcycle-riding robot. Unlike most two-wheeled debutants, Yamaha's new Motobot isn't starting out on a small capacity motorcycle, but release images show the humanoid robot riding Yamaha's most sporting motorcycle, the 1000cc R1M.

The motorcycle-riding humanoid robot combines Yamaha’s motorcycle and robotics technology in an R&D effort aimed at developing a robotic rider which can ride an unmodified motorcycle competently on a racetrack.

Little information has been released about Motobot. The brief press statement states that the "task of controlling the complex motions of a motorcycle at high speeds requires a variety of control systems that must function with a high degree of accuracy" ... so we don't expect any startling results any time soon.

The aim of the exercise is to develop rider-support systems similar to those we are seeing developed in automobiles to make driving safer. "We want to apply the fundamental technology and know-how gained in the process of this challenge to the creation of advanced rider safety and rider-support systems and put them to use in our current businesses, as well as using them to pioneer new lines of business," says Yamaha's release.

It's no secret that DARPA catalyzed the massive leap forward in autonomous vehicles over the last decade when it held its inaugural DARPA Grand Challenge in 2004, but one of the less publicised entrants in that momentous race was Anthony Levandowski's Ghostrider Robot Team, which used the base of a Yamaha single-cylinder dirt bike to create the first autonomous motorcycle.

The Ghostrider didn't make the cut for the final event, but then again only a handful of those cars that did qualify got out of the car park, but the event was the crucial factor which has resulted in autonomous vehicles being developed so quickly in the subsequent 11 years.

Check out Motobot in action:

View gallery - 8 images