Meet Motobot, The Motorbike Racing Robot

Meet Motobot, The Motorbike Racing Robot

The longest automobile race in the United States is the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, run at the Thunderhill Raceway in Sacramento Valley. However, last September there was a race of a different kind.

Rossi Is Still The Champion

Anyone who knows even a little bit about motorbike racing will know of Valentino Rossi. He is the most successful racer of all time, with 9 world championships to his name. A very likeable Italian, his fastest time for a lap at Thunderhill Raceway was a very fast 85 seconds.

Then last year, spectators could see a motorbike rider in the distances, taking the curves of the course like a true professional. It was only as it approached the stands that spectators were to realise the rider was not human. It was a colourful humanoid robot that at first glance looked like something from a computer game. It was time for them to meet Motobot 2.0.

Rossi rides a Yamaha YZF-R1M, and so does Motobot. The fastest Motobot 1.0 could achieve was 150 kmh which made his lap times more than 30 seconds short of Rossi’s. Motobot 2.0 reached an impressive 200 kmh, but the was still not fast enough to match Rossi.

A Few Crashes Along The Way

The CEO and managing director of Yamaha Motor Ventures and Laboratory Silicon Valley, said they had experienced several majors crashes with Motobot, two of them catastrophic. Thankfully, no one has been injured in any of these crashes. He also said they had several slow speed crashes during the development of Motobot, but that is all part of pushing the boundaries of technology.

Yamaha has been working on the Motobot project since 2004, on the basis that they would develop groundbreaking technology without looking to make huge profits in the short term. Its original concept was to make a robot that could ride a motorbike autonomously, and to achieve this they teamed up with the Stanford Research Institute (SRI).

The reputation for the expertise of SRI goes back as far as 1966 when they built the first robot with the ability to perceive and reason about its surroundings, They are also known as the creators of the Apple assistance, Siri.

When asked why they has chosen a motorbike riding robot, Yamaha said because it was difficult to do, and it had not been done before. Apart from beating Rossi’s lap record, SRI said they wanted to learn what makes a great rider. This was one of the reasons they used an unmodified motorbike similar To the one Rossi rides, They wanted it to be fair competition between man and machine, and to date, man has won every time.

Could Not Quite Beat The Champion

9 Times World Champion Valentino Rossi

Human motorbike racers put their lives at risk in every race. When they are racing at more than 200 kmh, a crash can be fatal. It only takes a slight error for such a crash to happen, and that is the same for Motobot. Try as much as they did, Motobot did not have the same skill as Rossi, but who knows how this will progress in the future.

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