Move over, Arnie. Robot Bikes are Coming

While Automologist MAC does not seem to think much of autonomous motorcycles, they might just be the thing to bring out the rebel in him.

The relentless march of automation seems to be catching up with the motorcycle this week, with news that Kawasaki is developing artificial intelligence for vehicles of the two-wheeled variety. Of course we are not talking about having an Arnie-style cyborg piloting the motorcycle, but future bikes could well have the ability to ‘chat’ with their riders or even allow voice commands.

Kawasaki’s new system, which is still in the earlier stages of development, is called “Kanjo Engine”. Kanjo translates to “emotion”, and the system is touted to be able to understand human speech, monitor rider status and be a general companion for the rider. Apparently the intention is for the bike to be able to accelerate and brake via voice command.

On the other side of the road, Yamaha has also been getting its leather-clad robots out of the shed and has in fact already showcased a robotic bike at the Tokyo Motor Show last year; whilst the two companies are riding very separate routes, it is clear that the idea of autonomous transport, whereby your ride does the riding for you, and driver assist are as clearly on the horizon for two-wheeled road users as they are for their four-wheeled cousins.

Now, I know I am not a biker, but this all seems a little pointless to me. Doesn’t all of this electronic assistance start to defeat the purpose of why most bikers are bikers in the first place. You have to get a little philosophical at this point and ask if a motorcycle is still a motorcycle, or at least if the experience of getting on a two-wheeled contraption is still worthwhile if the computer is essentially the riding rebel and not you.

Kawasaki is convinced that its Kanjo Engine will make it to the showrooms in the not too distant future, and that rider status and auto-adjusting controls will far from ruin the experience; but instead, they will make riding much more accessible to people like me who had previously been too scared to hop on a bike and experience the freedom of the open road.

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