BMW's riderless bike tech could save lives

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We’re trackside watching a BMW GS do its stuff. So far, so normal. But there’s one crucial difference: the bike is riding itself.

It’s no party piece. BMW’s self-riding bike has been developed to showcase anti-crash technology. Using GPS and radar to monitor road position and a fully-automated riding system, the machine can navigate around a track, avoid obstacles and even start and stop on its own.

But while in the case of this multi-million pound development bike, the rider is rendered obsolete, BMW say we don’t need to panic about humans being made redundant.


“We can shift gears and we can steer the bike without a rider, but the fully automatic motorcycle is not our goal,” said BMW Active Motorcycle Safety expert, Stefan Hans. “This is about development and if we can create a bike that can cope with all riding tasks we can offer it as an assistance system for the rider.

“Technical advancement for safety has been much slower for bikes. For example, ABS on cars came ten years before it did on bikes, traction control 20 years later. Cars now can intervene before something dangerous happens and we need to learn more about bikes to help riders avoid getting themselves into a critical situation.”

All the functions that would normally be operated by the rider now have electro-mechanical control. There is a steering actuator which controls the bike’s path, an automated clutch and gearbox with its own shifter.

The ride-by-wire throttle is now controlled entirely by a computer rather than by the twistgrip and there is a sidestand that retracts when the bike starts to move off.

Using data from the IMU together with a GPS system that plots the bike’s path, inputs are made to the steering to keep it upright. Of course, this takes a huge amount of computing power, firstly by measuring the inputs of normal riding and then replicating them with the electro-mechanical devices.

Combined with this, the bike has radar similar to the anti-crash system already used on cars, allowing it to ‘see’ danger up to three seconds in advance and it can avoid action.

BMW won’t say when they will introduce this tech to road models, but expect to see it filter down in the next few years, with active collision avoidance a possibility.

Similar riderless technology...

Earlier this year, we saw Wiltshire-based firm A B Dynamics had developed a BMW C1 scooter capable of driving itself to help make self-driving cars safer for riders.

Could these tested features help save riders lives one day?

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Matt Wildee

By Matt Wildee

Former MCN Senior Editor