If this feels like déjà vu, you are correct; you have seen this motorcycle before. This is the Riding Assist-e concept and it was revealed back in 2017. At that time, it attracted considerable attention on account of its autonomous self-balancing abilities. We are talking about this concept again because Honda are now developing this technology for use on the road.
The Riding Assist-e was fully capable of balancing itself while stationary and could roll along at a walking pace without a rider being astride. To do this, it was armed with an array of sensors that fed information required to actuate self-steering, auto-acceleration, and automatic braking, thus eliminating the need for a rider. What is interesting is that the latest patent does not suggest complete automation. Rather it appears to be an assist system that can either cover for a fatigued rider or assume control to prevent an accident. Sounds useful, does it not?
Motorcycles with radar sensors are not new to us any longer. Ducati and Triumph are selling motorcycles in India that have radar-based systems developed in collaboration with major players such as Bosch and Continental. Furthermore, we know that Yamaha are running trials for a steering-assist apparatus on their factory-run motocross motorcycles. Even in such company, what Honda have in mind is leaps and bounds ahead of the others.
In addition to cameras and radar, their technology will also feature “lidar” (Light Detection And Ranging). This uses lasers to create a virtual 3D map of the motorcycle’s surroundings to work in tandem with the aforementioned automatic controls, including throttle, brakes, and steering. Data will also be supplied by the conventional suite of sensors, including those for speed and acceleration. To top it all, it will be equipped with a V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) built-in communication device that allows the system to interact with other vehicles on the road using the internet of things.
We expect the steering system to employ the magnetostrictive torque sensor set-up, which Yamaha’s prototype relies on, to monitor the rider’s inputs and provide support when needed. A rider-facing camera and pressure sensors in the seat, bar grips, and foot-pegs are used to ascertain the rider’s (and pillion rider’s) posture on the motorcycle. Essentially, the whole system will be on a par with the semi-autonomous ability offered by some of the high-end cars in the market today. Of course, owing to the increased complexity of manoeuvring a motorcycle through lanes and traffic, more allowances and specific rules will be written for the system.
Once developed, we may expect this technology to be a messenger of safe motorcycling that does not rob one of the joy of experiencing the freedom offered by two wheels.
Story: Joshua Varghese
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