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Yamaha develops self-driving motorcycle

From GM and Audi to Lyft and Google, there's no shortage of companies pouring money into self-driving car research.

Yamaha, however, is taking a different approach by combining autonomous driving with humanoid robots.

Motobot is an autonomous motor-cycle riding robot, being researched and designed by Yamaha and SRI International.

Robot-related research has made strides in artificial intelligence in recent years, but physical advancements have been limited. While some robots can now move seamlessly and find balance and others are learning to use staircases, Motobot is riding motorcycles.

But don't expect much more from it.

"Robots should have a very specific purpose," Hiroshi Saijou, Yamaha's Motor Ventures CEO and Managing Director told CNBC. "He cannot walk, he cannot speak, he cannot listen, but once he rides on a motorcycle, he's [more] superior than humans."

The idea was conceived to help the Japanese company evolve safety and design of its motorcycles, while simultaneously investing in artificial intelligence.

There isn't an immediate goal for Motobot's function in daily life, as it's still learning from the project, but Saijou said, it could eventually serve as a delivery method to homes or be used in large fields for manufacturing.


Yamaha’s humanoid robot on a motorcycle.
Source: Yamaha Motor Ventures
Yamaha’s humanoid robot on a motorcycle.

According to Sajiou, the human robot could even eventually be used to operate other forms of transit, including marine transportation and aviation.

Yamaha presented Motobot in Singapore at Echelon 2016, a gathering of thousands of tech entrepreneurs. Southeast Asia is currently Yamaha's biggest motorcycle market, which is why Saijou attended from Silicon Valley, where the company's labs are located, to spread awareness and potentially collaborate with other companies.

"If we're working in Japan, we should follow traditional Japanese style," Sajiou said. "But if we're looking at disruptive innovation, we should have an open innovation approach, so Silicon Valley is the best place for us to execute that."

Motobot can currently ride up to 100 kilometers peer hour and next year, is expected to move at twice that speed.

By the end of 2017, the goal for Motobot is to race against—and beat—Valentino Rossi, the nine-time world champion in Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing.

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