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We may be ready for autonomous cars, but how about self-driving bikes?

Driverless Motorbike

We’re totally onboard for being driven around in a self-driving car. For whatever reason, though, a self-driving motorbike sounds a whole lot more terrifying. Nonetheless, that’s what U.K.-based company AB Dynamics has developed — although it’s not something that you will be riding on any time soon. Unlike regular self-driving cars, the self-driving bike does not have the same complex ability to make sense of its environment. Instead, it is able to balance itself and to follow a path accurately and with a high degree of repeatability. The reason? To simulate real-world driving conditions on test tracks to help train future autonomous or semi-autonomous cars.

“Increasingly, cars are fitted with active safety systems whose job is to detect a possible collision and avoid it,” Jeremy Ash, commercial manager for AB Dynamics, told Digital Trends. “These systems are very complex to develop and, as part of that process, you need to expose your car to the type of scenario it might encounter on the road. Often these tests are done with ‘soft dummies’ which represent moving pedestrians, cyclists, motorbikes, and cars but can be safely struck by the test vehicle. But for some tests 100 percent representative targets are needed, hence real cars — which we can already drive with no one onboard thanks to our robots — and, now, a real motorbike. This could also be used for testing fully self-driving cars, which need to be able to navigate through complex traffic environments without hitting other road users. We are seeing a lot of interest in using our technology to reproduce these traffic environments with moving cars, pedestrians, and other road users.”

AB Dynamics

So far, AB Dynamics has demonstrated the feasibility of its self-driving bike, although only in prototype form. Next up, the company aims to develop this into a production item. This could potentially then be sold to one or more of the 25 largest car manufacturers in the world, which AB Dynamics already supplies test equipment to.

There is the chance of one day developing this into a publicly available self-driving bike, but Ash pointed out that this would require “a lot more R&D” of the sort that companies are now carrying out for autonomous cars. This work is being conducted by AB’s development partner, AutoRD. The question is whether you would be willing to ride one?

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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