Look Mum, No Hands! This Mini Motorbike Rides Itself Without Falling Over

It's a step towards full autonomy.

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Sep 12 2016, 2:25pm

Image: EPFL/YouTube

It looks cooler than Google's self-driving panda car, even if it's only miniature. This model bike is a step toward fully autonomous motorcycles and overcomes a main challenge with two-wheeled vehicles: not falling over.

Eric Unnervik, a master's student at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, developed the mini bike to demonstrate some of the technology that could lead to full-on autonomous motorbikes. At the moment, the bike needs a human controller to tell it where to go via a remote control as it has no GPS, but it can ride there by itself—crucially, without flopping on its side.

In a video, Unnervik explains (in French) that his grown-up Hot Wheels toy contains a Raspberry Pi computer and sensors that measure the bike's angle and speed. A servomotor adjusts the steering angle as needed so the bike won't fall as it travels up to 60 km/h.

He says he'd ultimately like to race a 100 percent autonomous bike against one with a rider.

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Cars have so far stolen the autonomous road vehicle limelight, though Yamaha unveiled a motorbike-riding robot at CES this year, and Google has lobbied to keep regulations open to testing autonomous motorcycles.

The question remains as to quite why anyone would want a motorbike that drives itself—to get that wind-in-your-hair feeling without the hard work, perhaps?