Yamaha's motorcycle-riding robot created to surpass human riders

Yamaha has built an autonomous motorcycle-riding humanoid robot, to demonstrate the power of robotics to surpass human capabilities.

The company would do this by beating Italian motorcycle racer Valentino Rossi on the track.

"I am improving my skills every day, but I'm not sure if I can even beat the five-year-old you," the robot told Rossi in the voiceover to a video which Yamaha released when it showed off the machine at the Tokyo Motor Show this week. "Perhaps if I learn everything about you, I will be able to catch up...I am Motobot. I was created to surpass you."

The powerfully built bike priced $22,000 had not been modified in any way, and the robot's six actuators were designed to twist the throttle, squeeze the brakes and pump the foot shifter just like a person would.

According to Yamaha, Motobot would also be able to pilot a snowmobile or a jet ski with slight modifications.

According to Yamaha, machine learning, in tandem with sensors and GPS would allow Motobot to "make its own decisions regarding the best lines to take around a racetrack and the limits of the motorcycle's performance, so that it can improve its lap times with successive laps of the track."

Yamaha said it was developing the Motobot to ride an unmodified motorcycle on a racetrack at over 200 kilometers (or around 124 miles) per hour.

"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," Yamaha said. What could go wrong, right?

Yamaha says the project could actually lead to  safer motorcycles in the long run.

"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," Yamaha said.

Yamaha added, it was hoping the project would also lead to "new lines of business," but did not elaborate.