Robots may one day steal your job but for the time being professional motorcyclists can breathe easy, as despite the efforts of Yamaha and robotics firm SRI, robot bikers can’t beat humans in a race.
The two companies spent the last three years developing a humanoid robot with the goal of beating the best lap times set by Valentino Rossi, one of the most successful motorcycle racers of all time.
While driverless cars are being touted as better drivers than humans, in the motorbike racing world the same can’t be said.
Yamaha’s and SRI’s robot, dubbed Motobot, was soundly beaten by Rossi during a race on an unmodified Yamaha bike.
While Motobot has six actuators to control the bike’s steering, brakes, throttle, clutch and gear shifts, it lacked the ability to finely manipulate the bike in the way a Grand Prix World Champion like Rossi can.
Motobot collects data from the bike in real-time as it races to figure out ways to get the most performance out of it.
But the robot wasn’t able to replicate the more intuitive side to motorcycle racing, based on feel, driving style and instinct that Rossi possesses.
While the carbon fibre lightweight construction of Motobot gave it more power-to-weight than Rossi, allowing for faster straight line performance, it lacked the ability to do discreet movements when leaning into corners that gave Rossi the ability to clip sharper apexes and achieve smoother lines in the corners.
All this resulted in Rossi beating Motobot by around 30 seconds in a fastest lap challenge.
Rossi may have done a good job representing humanity in the face of the rise of the machines, but Yamaha’s and SRI’s robotic tech is impressive and demonstrates how capable robots can be, even if they can’t quite beat humans at everything.
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