Yamaha ramps up autonomous motorbike efforts

In the growing race to emerge the leader in self-driving technology, Yamaha hopes the third time is the charm as it attempts to break into the car market and to incorporate self-driving technology into motorcycles. However, the firm’s CEO acknowledges that it will most likely take close to a decade to bring the autonomous technology to two-wheelers on a commercial basis.

Yamaha launched these efforts with moderate investments of near $20 million in Silicon Valley, where it established a company last summer, in order to discover the latest technologies in autonomous vehicles, robotics and drones. It invested $2 million in a US startup, Veniam, back in February, attracted by the startup’s connected vehicle expertise.

“It’s not a sense of crisis, but I want to make sure we stay ahead of the race,” CEO Hiroyuki Yanagi explained.

While its previous efforts to enter the car business have failed, Yamaha is hoping self-driving technologies it’s developing will help. To date, Yamaha’s efforts in self-driven vehicles has involved a motorcycle-riding robot called Motobot. However, Mr. Yanagi does not imagine a totally driverless motorcycle.

“Our current target is how to assist the rider. The rider can focus more on safety, if the machine handling becomes autonomous, and artificial intelligence can be used for course selection.”

Yamaha already has some assistive technologies

Yamaha has gotten closer – in regards to a rider assistance system – by creating the R1. This bike, its most recent upscale racing model, is equipped with sensors and technology that controls brakes and other movements.

Many Japanese companies have a presence in Silicon Valley, along with Yamaha. To accommodate the shift towards driverless vehicles, Toyota plans to spend $1 billion, and is looking around Silicon Valley now. The biggest employment search company in Japan, Recruit Holdings, procured them an expert from Google to establish an AI research lab in the area.

Yamaha’s latest advancements come as the company also hopes to launch a two-seat commuter car in Europe, as soon as 2019.  While prior efforts to break into the car market may have failed, Yamaha hopes to have better results this time.

 

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