As our cars become more and more self-driving, other forms of transport are not resting on their oars - definitely not the Motorbike industry. The Thunderhill Raceway in California’s Sacramento Valley is the one of the most famous motorbike racing areas in the world, and it hosts the longest automobile race in the United States, called as the 25 Hours of Thunderhill.
Last year September though, it played host to the a motorbike racing robot simply called the Motobot. And it is almost indiscernible to the eye.
According to the company, the Motobot 2.0 (yes, it is not the first one) is a fully autonomous motorcycle-riding robot that was specially designed to drive around a racetrack at high speed on a Yamaha YZF-R1M.
This is the same kind of motorbike that racing legend Valentino Rossi rides. Human controllers can specify how aggressively Motobot should race on a scale of zero to 100% and the system handles the rest.
The team has been making steady progress as it hit one of its goals when the robot successfully hit speeds exceeding 200km/h (124 mph) on the race track. This is 50 km/h faster than its predecessor Motobot 1.0. Inspite of this it still fell short of its goal of beating legendary racer Valentino Rossi record, though not by much.
Before you get too excited, it has not been smooth sailing all the way. This is confirmed by Hiroshi Saijou, CEO and managing director at Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley, and the lead director on the Motobot project.
“We had several major crashes, two were catastrophic. Nobody was injured, and both happened in safe, to human, controlled circumstances. Several times we've had low-speed incidents as we were developing and testing Motobot. This is all part of the price of pushing the boundaries of technology.”