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A BMW R 1200 GS has been turned into a self-riding bike specifically developed for the purpose of showcasing the latest in anti-crash technology. The machine uses radar and GPS in order to monitor its road position, and also incorporates a completely automated riding system that allows it to navigate around tracks, avoid any obstacles that may get in its way, and even start and stop completely autonomously.
However BMW says that while the rider may have been made redundant by this development bike, which cost millions of pounds to develop, there is no need for anyone to fear that machines are replacing human beings.
Stefan Hans, the Active Motorcycle Safety expert for BMW, says that although the bike can steer and shift gears without the need for a rider, it is not the intention of the company to manufacture a completely automatic motorcycle. Hans says that the BMW GS is simply about development, and the challenge of creating a bike that is able to successfully cope with every riding task so that riders can be offered it as an assistance system.
Technical advancements for bikes in regard to safety have been much slower than has been the case for other vehicles, with ABS fitted to cars coming out an entire decade before bikes had the system installed; traction control took as long as twenty years to move from cars to bikes. Cars are now able to take action autonomously in order to prevent a dangerous occurrence, and Hans says that more needs to be understood about bikes so that riders can likewise be helped to avoid critical situations.
What are the functions of the self-riding bike?
All functions that are normally under the control of the rider are under electro-mechanical control in the BMW GS, including a steering actuator that is in control of the bike’s path, a gearbox that has its own shifter and an automated clutch. A computer is now in complete control of the ride-by-wire throttle, instead of it being controlled by the twistgrip, while there is also a sidestand that is able to retract when the bike begins to move off. The steering receives input that enables it to remain upright with IMU data, as well as a GPS system that is able to plot the path of the bike.
This inevitably requires a great deal of computing power, and is achieved by first measuring the input of ordinary riding, and then using the electro-mechanical devices to replicate them. In conjunction with this, the bike also has radar of a kind similar to that already being used in cars that enables it to sense danger as long as three seconds in advance, allowing it to act accordingly to try and avoid the situation. BMW has yet to reveal whether or not it intends to fit road models with this technology, but it is likely to filter down into bikes over the course of the next few years, with the likes of active collision avoidance one of the strongest early possibilities.