bmw self-balancing motorcycle
Blogging

Bike of the Future: BMW’s Self-Balancing Motorcycle

This article was ghostwritten for Pawn my Car. It is written in British English.

In celebration of their 100th anniversary, BMW has unveiled a self-balancing bike that is so safe, they claim you can ride it sans helmet. The futuristic prototype uses self-stabilising technology to remain upright, even at a complete stop. While this sort of technology might seem far-fetched, the Segway already employs gyroscopic sensors to remain balanced at all times and Honda has also experimented with a self-balancing bike, which uses minute steering inputs to stay upright.

While BMW’s motorcycle, the Motorrad VISION NEXT 100, is still very much a concept and is unlikely to be a reality until 2030, it has been designed to make motorcycle riding safer and easier for both beginners and seasoned riders. BMW also claims that the bike’s design makes accidents unlikely.

“Its self-balancing system will help protect the rider at any time,” explained Edgar Heinrich, the head of design at BMW’s motorcycle division, Motorrad. “Any late reaction from the driver will trigger and the vehicle will balance out. In the future, motorcycle riders will be able to enjoy riding without protective gear.”

The zero-emissions bike is also shaped to be nimble. Turning the handlebars adjusts the entire frame in order to facilitate a change of direction and the sensitivity is tied directly to your speed so a slight adjustment at top speed won’t result in a dramatic change of direction. Stronger input is required to steer in a different direction when you’re going fast, just as a lighter touch is all you need at low speeds.

Despite its futuristic design, BMW does not envision a self-driving motorcycle, preferring to leave control in the hands of the rider. This is not only a result of the controversial nature of self-driving cars, BMW also doesn’t want to jeopardise the enjoyment factor of riding a motorcycle.

“The motorcycle provides my escape from everyday life. From the moment I get on, I experience total freedom – the great escape,” said Heinrich.

The motorcycle’s unique concepts aren’t the only futuristic development that BMW has come up with. The rider also gets kitted out with eyewear in place of the now redundant helmet, which offers not only eye protection but also active feedback about road conditions. The visor, as it is called, incorporates the digital companion system and remains blank when the rider is looking straight ahead. It only displays information if the rider requests it by adjusting their gaze or if the system picks up a hazard it needs to make them aware of. The digital companion is intended to act imperceptibly and only intervenes when absolutely necessary or when specifically requested by the user.

“It was important to us that the analogue riding experience would remain undisturbed. The display and operating concept acts so discreetly that it creates a natural and familiar movement,” says Holger Hampf, head of customer experience at BMW.

The rider’s apparel is also designed with safety in mind, but not in the form of bulky armouring or leather. The suit incorporates physical feedback in the form of vibrations to let the rider know when the bike is over tilted or to give directions. The lightweight clothing and footwear also monitor your body temperature, adjusting its built in A/C function when necessary to ensure you never overheat or get too cold on your ride.

As always with concept vehicles, details are unconfirmed and vague in some areas with no confirmation on when, if ever, the motorcycle might be put into production.

Said Heinrich, “Normally when we develop a motorcycle, we tend to think five to 10 years in advance. On this occasion, we looked much further ahead and found some very attractive prospects.”

Either way, BMW has created a very solid concept that may seem far-fetched now but has the potential to revolutionise the motorbike industry. In the meantime, though, we’ll have to stick with our much-needed helmets and leathers.

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