Robotics technology is the focus of many fields at the moment, and as peoples’ and society’s expectations grow, Yamaha took on the challenge of developing an autonomous motorcycle-riding robot, called MOTOBOT, in 2015. The goal was none other than to better the lap times of world-class professional motorcycle racers. Yamaha has been involved in building industrial-use robots since the 1970s, and with that background there was the idea that if the purpose is specific enough, robots should be able to transcend humans in ability. Though it seemed a lofty goal, the development of MOTOBOT was a challenge to prove that point.
With most research and development into autonomous driving, the autonomous driving technology is built into the vehicle itself. The approach with MOTOBOT was different however, as the autonomous portion is separate from the vehicle, with the robot operating the throttle, brakes and gear shift of a functionally unmodified motorcycle. Part of the aim was the idea that this kind of technology could lead to robots that can be retrofitted to existing vehicles in industrial settings, which could offer new solutions in that area.
While the MOTOBOT challenge spanned three years, in the end it was not able to improve on the lap times of professional riders. It did, however, manage to reach speeds of over 200 km/h while lapping a racetrack. Also, in 2017 the experimental proof-of-concept model MOTOROiD was developed with autonomous and intelligent technology to achieve high-level self-balancing electronic control. The MOTOROiD’s goal was to be a new form of personal mobility in which the rider resonates harmoniously with the machine. To do that, it was designed to be able to sense its current status and adjust its center of gravity to stay upright indefinitely.
In 2018, Yamaha formulated its “Art for Human Possibilities” Long-term Vision with an eye on 2030 in response to an increasingly more sophisticated global information society, peoples’ values becoming more diverse, and issues like global warming presenting complicated challenges. Robotics is one of the core areas in that can take on the challenge of transforming mobility and helping to solve societal issues in uniquely Yamaha ways.