As autonomous vehicle development speeds toward its inevitable introduction, the motoring world looks at extending the technology to other road users, which is where the riderless motorcycle comes from.
Now, autonomous cars sort of make sense on a utility front because users can occupy the time they might spend on a daily commute, for example, planning out the day on the way to work or catching up on tasks there wasn’t enough time for at the office on the way home. But what practical use is there for a personal vehicle like a motorcycle? To send it out for a spin so it doesn’t get bored in the garage?
AB Dynamics, a global supplier of advanced automotive test systems, sees the riderless motorcycle as a crucial part of autonomous vehicle development, allowing driverless vehicles to be tested on controlled courses in more rigorous and real-world like scenarios under safer conditions.
Motorcycles present a unique obstacle for autonomous cars because of their manoeuvrability and quick acceleration, and advanced driver assistance programs (ADAS) have to react to them differently than slow moving pedestrians or cyclists.
“A riderless motorcycle allows more comprehensive testing of autonomous or ADAS-equipped vehicles, without risking injury to a real rider,” explained Dr Richard Simpson, AB Dynamics’ Senior Systems Engineer. “It also permits greater accuracy, repeatability and consistency between tests than any human rider could achieve. This motorcycle is another excellent tool to complement our other testing equipment for autonomous and ADAS development.”
Initial development of the autonomous system has been performed with “soft” targets but has resulted in the riderless motorcycle acquiring the full performance potential of a ridden BMW C1 (the production bike to which the autonomous system was fitted), enabling more dynamic interactions with vehicles (albeit dummy vehicles) in manoeuvres such as overtaking and lane-splitting.
The BMW C1 was choses for its equipment — it is fitted with anti-lock brakes, doesn’t have a manual clutch, and it has a roof (which makes it convenient for mounting the autonomous sensors). The company expects to use a more modern motorcycle for future testing.
AB Dynamics expects to supply a wide range of customers working to develop autonomous vehicle systems, as well as those developing testing of autonomous vehicles, and even some of the more arduous motorcycle testing. The current demonstrator has validated the technology, now the onus is on further development of the riderless motorcycle for improved testing.
“Future legislation and vehicle safety testing could require ADAS systems and autonomous vehicles to be validated in increasingly complex scenarios and the riderless motorcycle is a useful tool for achieving this,” concluded Simpson. “It could also have applications in motorcycle durability testing by removing the human rider from some of the more arduous tests over rough surfaces … to eliminate (rider) fatigue.”