• Self Balancing Bike Tech: An Accident Waiting to Happen?

Is This Control Gone Too Far?

LISTEN 02:17

At the CES event in Las Vegas, a company called Intellias has revealed self-balancing tech for motorcycles.

Self-Balancing Motorcycles: A Step too far?

Self Balancing Bike Tech: An Accident Waiting to Happen?
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BMW Self-Balancing Tech
GPS tracking and servos allowed it to ride around a track on its own.

At the CES event in Las Vegas, tech company Intellias has revealed tech that will enable a bike to be self-balancing. That in itself is nothing new - BMW, Honda and Yamaha have all introduced concepts that do just that - but the Intellias tech could be bought by any number of manufacturers to fit to existing models, saving the time and expense of developing their own tech.

The Intellias system incorporates sensors mounted from front to back of the motorcycle. They detect the lean angle and the speed at which the bike achieves that lean angle, such as when tipping into a corner. Actuators then use that data to counter the lean by moving the handlebars, thus using counter steering to pick the bike up. It will help with low speed riding and, in theory, allow the bike to be autonomous. Quite why we need a bike that can ride itself, I don’t know.

Self Balancing Bike Tech: An Accident Waiting to Happen?
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What is the Point?
BMW claims the bike can ’talk’ to other vehicles, preventing collisions in zero-visibility, such as blind corners

There are two ways of looking at such tech: it could open up motorcycling to a whole new audience or it could dilute even further the pleasure to be had from riding a motorbike.

The argument that self-balancing tech will encourage new riders doesn’t hold water. Are we getting so unskilled that we have to have aids for everything potentially difficult we might want to do? Didn’t we all wobble around for the first few miles when we started riding, only for our skills to improve exponentially?

One of the main points about riding a motorcycle is the difference the rider can make to the operation of the bike: take that away and the bike becomes no better than a car, making all the decisions for you.

Self Balancing Bike Tech: An Accident Waiting to Happen?
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Yamaha MotoBot
The robot mimicked the human element. More a display of tech than a practical solution

Another factor to consider is how will the bike decide what is an incident about to happen and what is tipping the bike into one of your favourite corners that you know so well you can take it at speed? All of a sudden, the bike is picking itself up and you are running into the other lane into oncoming traffic.

A lot of innovative tech has definitely helped with safety - ABS and traction control are two that spring to mind - but this smacks of tech for tech’s sake without really thinking whether we need it.

Harry Fisher
Harry Fisher
Motorcycling Contributor
Born and raised in England, he has lived in South Africa with his family since 2002. Harry has owned examples of Triumph, Norton, BSA, MV Agusta, Honda, BMW, Ducati, Harley Davidson, Kawasaki and Moto Morini motorcycles. He regrets selling all of them.  Read full bio
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