Self-driving motorcycle aims to improve testing of autonomous vehicles
A self-driving motorcycle, co-developed by AB Dynamics, will allow autonomous cars to be tested under much more challenging and representative conditions. Unlike slow-moving pedestrians and cyclists, the combination of rapid acceleration and extreme maneuverability means motorcycles present a particular challenge to an autonomous vehicle or advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).
To avoid risk to a human rider, initial development of the interactions between motorcycles and autonomous or ADAS-equipped vehicles has been conducted using controlled soft targets, but these are limited in speed capability and how accurately they represent a real motorbike. AB Dynamics says its riderless motorcycle has the full performance potential of the original bike, enabling more dynamic interactions to be tested, such as motorcycle overtaking, traffic filtering, and lane splitting.
“A riderless motorcycle allows more comprehensive testing of autonomous or ADAS-equipped vehicles, without risking injury to a real rider,” explained Dr. Richard Simpson, Senior Systems Engineer, AB Dynamics. “It also permits greater accuracy, repeatability, and consistency between tests than any human rider could achieve. This motorcycle is another excellent tool to complement our other testing equipment for autonomous and ADAS development.”
Mechanical integration of the riderless systems was performed by a technology startup company, AutoRD. AB Dynamics integrated its onboard robot controller (RC), which runs the company’s standard RC software, allowing programming of the motion of the motorcycle and path-following via GPS positioning, just like a car driven by the company’s robots. AB Dynamics’ cross-platform Synchro technology allows coordination of the bike with other moving objects, such as cars or ADAS targets, and synchronizes all data generated, enabling later review.
For ease of conversion, the technology demonstrator used a BMW C1 motorcycle which has ABS, no manual clutch, and a roof structure, convenient for mounting sensors. Subsequent developments will use a more modern machine with greater performance.
“Future legislation and vehicle safety testing could require ADAS systems and autonomous vehicles to be validated in increasingly complex scenarios, and the riderless motorcycle is a useful tool for achieving this,” said Simpson. “It could also have applications in motorcycle durability testing by removing the human rider from some of the more arduous tests over rough surfaces, such as pave, where cars already use robot drivers to eliminate driver fatigue.”