Why BMW developed an autonomous motorcycle

Why BMW developed an autonomous motorcycle
Technology News |
Recently, BMW Motorrad introduced the first autonomous motorbike. Before committed bikers ask whether BMW is now completely crazy: calm down - series production is not planned. BMW discloses other reasons for the development.
By Christoph Hammerschmidt


At the BMW Group test site in Miramas in the south of France, a BMW R 1200 GS made its first laps as if controlled by magic. The vehicle developed by Stefan Hans and his team sets off automatically, accelerates, circles a winding test track and brakes again automatically to a standstill.

With this development, however, BMW Motorrad is by no means aiming to offer an motorcycle that can drive autonomously. Rather, the technology behind it is intended to serve as a platform for the development of future systems and functions in order to make motorcycling safer and more comfortable. The aim of the development of this prototype is to gather driving dynamics knowledge in order to recognize dangerous situations early on in the future and to support the driver with appropriate safety systems, for example at intersections, when turning off or when braking quickly.

The technology of the test vehicle is simpler than one might assume as an engineer. According to BMW, no gyro platform ensures the stability of the vehicle. In the control train, the designers have dispensed with components with gyroscopic effects. The electronics merely control the things that a human driver also controls – i.e. throttle, clutch, gearbox, brake and steering. The machine keeps its balance in the same way as a human being – via subtle steering movements. The designers however couldn’t do completely without gyro sensors: The information on the position of the vehicle is provided by multi-axis position and acceleration sensors.

The transition from standing to driving and back is somewhat tricky (and not entirely autonomous): as soon as the vehicle is in a virtually upright position when stationary – whereby it is held by a person – it can be started. The vehicle accelerates independently, engages in a controlled manner and accelerates from a standing position. Shifting operations during the journey are also performed by appropriate actuators.

If the vehicle is to stop, it reduces speed, automatically unfolds the side stand and tilts gently to the right when stationary, supported by a counter-rotating steering movement – this is the side on which the side stand is mounted.

In addition to this outlook, BMW Motorrad also presented other technology projects. Powerful motorcycle headlamps ranging from bend lighting to laser headlamps were on display, as was a motorcycle frame manufactured 100 percent in 3D with a rear wheel swing arm. As in the development of the autonomous motorbike, BMW Motorrad also used the synergies with BMW Automobiles, where this additive manufacturing process had already entered series production in various vehicles. The decisive advantage of 3D printing lies in the complete design freedom of components that could not be produced in any other way.

Finally, BMW Motorrad provided an outlook on the significance of the rapidly advancing digitalisation of motorcycling in the future. BMW Motorrad is faced with the challenge of taking tomorrow’s two-wheeler requirements into account in the traffic world of tomorrow and being able to keep them technically up to date. Above all, the V2V communication between vehicles and thus an increase in safety and comfort for the motorcyclist through digital networking are in the foreground.

Here you can see a video of BMW’s self-driving motorbike: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JlYE6nSNJI

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