With artificial intelligence and self-driving cars dominating the automotive industry, one can’t help but wonder if there’s any technology that’s similar in the motorcycle industry. And to my delight, I’ve found that BMW has already made something similar.
Cue BMW engineer Stephan Hans, as he steps off the new BMW R1200GS.
He gives it a gentle nudge, and the R1200GS proceeds to speed off, looping around the parking lot.
The audience is intrigued.
The bike handles the loops the way a human biker would, leaning into the turn.
The motorcycle ends this spectacle by rolling to a calculated stop right in front of its engineer.
Hans sets the kickstand like a writer punctuating the end of a sentence. It is an exclamation point.
If you think that the idea of a fully-automated motorcycle seems strange, you’re not alone in that thought. I share the sentiments. While the reasons that a person would grow a love for motorcycles vary, one of those reasons will always be the thrill of the ride. It is an experience that is unique to motorcycles and to have self-driving motorcycles is anathema to that joy.
But even as this would seem like nothing more than a really cool party trick, there lies a necessity in creating a self-driving motorcycle, and it’s not with the intention of replacing human riders as was initially assumed.
The wisdom behind building a self-driving motorcycle is to enable the motorcycle to take necessary corrective measures that are going to help put a rider back on track. This is based on the rationale that motorcycles are less stable than cars. After all, if most modern cars have driving assistive technologies, wouldn’t these technologies have a more significant effect on motorcycles?
This is especially true when you consider that unlike cars that have extra external protection, motorcycles are built to be light and compact, and therefore do not enjoy the same level of protection. This means that motorcycle riders have a higher risk of sustaining injuries in the event that they find themselves in an accident.
This is the rationale upon which the development of the R 1200 GS was built. In the moments where a rider may lapse in judgment, whether because of a lack of experience or because they simply made an error, the self-driving motorcycle can step in subtly.
This can be in the form of a slight adjustment to steering in order to navigate a turn better, or the prompt applying of brakes, or automatic stabilization when the motorcycle senses that the rider is off-balance.
This direction makes so much sense, especially in an age where car manufacturers seem to cram as many safety features as they can into every new model. We definitely have the technology, all we need now is the intention. And with the development of the R1200GS, it would seem that motorcycles are about to get much more secure and beginner-friendly.
They claim the global market is flooded with replicas of their classic scooters from China, India and Thailand.
The Chinese seem immune to international trade laws that bind other countries and their latest blatant ripoff is an electric Honda Goldwing.
We all know the Chinese make cheap copies of well-known brands and many of us probably have a Gucci belt made of plastic in a sweatshop in China.
However, the Chinese have also made a lot of copies of bigger and more expensive products such as cars.
Some of the cars Chinese manufacturers have copied include the Range Rover Evoque, Smart ForTwo, Hummer, Porsche Cayman, Audi A6, Jeep Cherokee, BMW X1, Rolls-Royce Phantom and MINI Cooper.
Some car manufacturers tried to stop them copying their cars, but failed in an obstructive and partisan legal system, so they formed alliances with Chinese companies to make their products for the local market.
Several motorcycle manufacturers, including Honda and Yamaha, have tried to fight Chinese manufacturers in the courts over breach of copyright, but it is a long process as there are hundreds of knockoff manufacturers.
So, like the car makers, Honda has formed an allegiance with one of the knockoff Chinese companies to make their bikes for the local market.
Supplies of the new BMW S 1000 RR have been substantially delayed thanks to a high demand for the company’s first high-performance M package.
The third generation gets a revamped engine and suspension for 2019, with more power, more technology, but less flab.
Power has been increased by 6kW (8 hp) to 152kW (207hp) and weight has been reduced from 208kg to 197kg (193.5kg with M Package).
And for the first time, BMW Motorrad offers M options and M Performance Parts for the new S 1000 RR.
The M package includes motorsport paint, carbon fibre wheels, lightweight battery, M Chassis Kit with rear ride height adjustment and swingarm pivot, sport seat and Pro Mode.
M gear has been available for BMW cars for years, but this is the first time it has been offered on a motorcycle.
S 1000 RR M package demand
BMW Motorrad Australia spokeswoman Leanne Blanckenberg says the “strong global demand for the S 1000 RR with the M package” has resulted in a delay in supply of the standard S 1000 RR.
“BMW Motorrad has had to adapt the originally planned production and delivery schedules from our suppliers,” she says.
“The production planning adaptations to the new S 1000 RR to meet the market requirements for a high M package equipment quota result in a reduced volume for the market launch in June,” she says.
“In addition, longer tool and system delivery times on the supplier side are currently reducing and regulating the output on the manufacturing side.
“BMW Motorrad is working in the best possible way to eliminate the bottlenecks to counter delivery delays and meet the great demand for the S 1000 RR.”
It is also believed early production models had a crankcase problem that has now been fixed.
In Europe, buyers who have paid a deposit and face long delays are being offered a loan bike while they wait or they can keep and continue to ride their trade-in bike at an agreed price until the S 1000 RR arrives.
Some dealers are also offering customers discounts and cash rebates on BMW rider gear or bike parts.
Leanne says BMW Motorrad Australia has not yet made any decisions on incentives.
BMW Motorrad has suggested it could produce an electric motorcycle that looks like a traditional Boxer-powered bike.
The Bavarian company has had an electric scooter, the C-Evolution, for some time and has shown its Concept Link electric scooter and electric S 1000 RR concept called the eRR.
But now they are suggesting that they could have a more traditionally designed motorcycle when they finally go electric.
Now that have unveiled their BMW Motorrad Vision DC Roadster with a boxer-styled powerplant.
It’s not necessarily going to make it into production, but it does show that BMW is thinking about how an electric motorcycle would look.
Here is their press release in full so you can decide what they plan:
“The boxer engine is the heart of BMW Motorrad – an absolute stalwart of its character. But BMW Motorrad stands for visionary zero-emissions vehicle concepts, too. In view of this, one question that arises is: what would happen if we were to replace the boxer engine with an electric motor and the required battery? The Vision Bike shows how we’re able to retain the identity and iconic appearance of BMW Motorrad in distinctive form while at the same time presenting an exciting new type of riding pleasure,” explains Edgar Heinrich, Head of Design BMW Motorrad. “After all: anyone who’s ever tried it out in practice knows very well that riding on two wheels is just as exciting when its electrically powered! The high level of torque right at set-off makes for breath-taking acceleration. This almost brutal power delivery creates a whole new experience of dynamic performance. And the BMW Motorrad Vision DC Roadster puts a face to this experience.”
New drive, familiar appearance
In a motorcycle, the motor is the centrepiece – it is the fundamental element, providing the basis for the entire architecture. But electrical drive components have completely different requirements in terms of installation space. While in a conventional motorbike the size of the engine is mainly determined by its capacity, it is the battery that takes up most space in the case of an electrically powered vehicle. The electric motor itself is relatively compact. Starting from this new basis, the BMW Motorrad Vision DC Roadster is able to make this transfer – retaining the iconic appearance of a boxer while filling it with a new function. This is why the Vision Bike is instantly recognisable as a BMW motorcycle, revealing its electric nature on closer inspection.
Replacing what would previously have been the engine, there is now a vertically fitted, longitudinally oriented battery. For cooling purposes, two side elements protrude with cooling ribs and integrated ventilators. As in the boxer engine of the BMW R 32 – the development of which was masterminded by Max Friz in 1923 – the cooling elements are placed in the air stream.
The cylinder-shaped electric motor is positioned underneath the battery and is directly connected to the universal shaft. The BMW Motorrad Vision DC Roadster thus demonstrates a clever drive architecture that visually echoes the history of BMW Motorrad while at the same time taking it a step further.
Dynamic performance reflected in the proportions
In the side view, the BMW Motorrad Vision DC Roadster presents a highly dynamic gesture with clear front-wheel orientation. The low front section and the short, high rear convey a sense of agility. Instead of the fuel tank, a flat, finely- wrought tubular structure spans the vehicle corpus. Its further shaping integrates the seat in a modern form, thereby creating the flyline of a sporty roadster. The frame structure is a key factor in defining the dynamic side view.
The large battery with its laterally protruding cooling systems is positioned at the centre of a frame milled from aluminium. The three-dimensional surface finish on the battery trim conveys a contemporary aesthetic appeal with its precise contours. The cooling elements echo the slight forward tilt of the battery silhouette, giving the side a dynamic momentum. When starting the electric motor, these cooling elements move out slightly, indicating that the bike is ready to go.
High performance with a light touch.
The overall appearance of the BMW Motorrad Vision DC conveys a sense of lightness so as to emphasise driving dynamics. Elements such as the seat and the cooling system appear to hover around the battery. On the frame itself, lengthwise milled grooves create a fascinating visual effect, reducing the perceived volume and highlighting the bike’s longitudinal dynamics. This impression is further underscored by means of openings in the milled aluminium frame and the tubular frame structure arranged above it. High-tech materials such as carbon fibre and aluminium reduce the overall weight and give the BMW Motorrad Vision DC Roadster a technical aesthetic. Meanwhile, red contrast elements and brushed aluminium at selected points such as the battery, frame and cool systems emphasise the bike’s innovative geometry.
High-quality details on closer inspection.
A key element of the BMW Motorrad Vision DC Roadster’s captivating overall appeal is the elaborate finish to be found in all its details. Within the mainly dark colour concept, it is the mechanical elements such as the exposed universal shaft and the Duolever fork that add striking accentuations. In this case, the two classic BMW features are re-interpreted and elaborately showcased. In the same way, the suggested triangular frame echoes a typical feature of earlier BMW motorcycle models, even recapturing its white lines, which in this instance fluoresce in the dark.
The minimalist design of the front and rear lights is an iconic implementation of the hallmark BMW Motorrad lighting, reflecting maximum reduction in modern style. The headlamp shows the LED daytime riding light in a dynamic, flat U shape, while two compact LED lenses on each side provide the low and high beam. This creates a hallmark lighting design that makes the concept vehicle instantly recognisable as a BMW motorcycle – both during the day and at night. The rear light consists of two C-shaped LED elements which are integrated in the aluminium rear carrier in minimalist, technically high-quality form. On the flanks of the tires exclusively made by Metzeler for the Vision Bike, five fluorescent elements, each about the size of a postage stamp, are integrated. They combine innovative design with safety aspects: standing and moving, the lighting elements create an exciting graphic effect. In darkness, they increase the visibility from the side, thus providing more security. They also convey dynamics when in motion.
Smart rider equipment
The functional two-piece suit is not instantly recognisable as protective clothing: it is an outfit that primarily stands as a modern, emotional fashion statement. The light jacket with large graphics in iridescent colouring and the casually styled black trousers combine fashion sense with new functionalities. The protectors are sewn in almost invisibly, while integrated technologies enable various light functions as well as the digital connectivity of the future. An asymmetrical rucksack vest rounds off the rider equipment for the vision vehicle. Fixed to the jacket by means of magnets, it provides storage space and additional functionality. The permanent magnets means that the rucksack is quick to put on and take off.
Symbol of a new generation
The BMW Motorrad Vision DC Roadster is a visionary symbol of the future of BMW Motorrad with alternative drive forms. It showcases the electrically powered driving experience in honest, authentic form, in particular creating a new, distinctive aesthetic appeal that is still firmly rooted in the finest BMW tradition.
They called it xDrive Hybrid, but it was for a two-wheel-drive motorcycle, not a hybrid-powered bike.
At the time, BMW Motorrad Australia GM Andreas Lundgren said there was a “very thin border between fact and fiction in their pranks … the concept is plausible”.
The Bavarian jokesters are famous for their April Fool’s Day jokes, having begun running spoof advertisements on April 1 in the early 1980s.
BMW’s marketing department says April Fool jokes are “designed to teeter on the verge of credibility” and often focus on a new and revolutionary piece of technology, but “push the idea just beyond the plausible.”
Some of their other April 1 pranks were a self-cleaning car, remote-inflatable tyres, dog-repellent bumpers, tyres that melted snow and a self-driving car that follows you when you go for a jog.
However, BMW may still be serious about a two-wheel-drive adventure motorcycle in the future.
There have been several other two-wheel-drive motorcycles before, most notably Yamaha’s 2WD system called 2-TRAC. They used it to tackle the Dakar Rally but it never made it into mass production.
The idea is not dead yet with Yamaha, either. Their PES2 electric bike is 2WD and the Japanese company has filed a patent for a new 2WD system with an electric motor driving the front wheel.
Other 2WD products and concepts include the Christini dirt bikes, Suzuki Nuda concept, Rokon, Ural 2WD outfits and Australia’s own Drysdale stroker which was intended for the Australian Army.
But the biggest hint that BMW may actually be considering a 2WD bike comes from BMW accessories company Wunderlich.
While many riders are horrified by the prospect of self-riding motorcycles, there could be a use for them in the courier and delivery industries.
The robotic bikes are also being used to test interaction with self-driving vehicles without endangering the lives of test riders.
The Facebook device has small wheels that can turn 360 degrees, so it wouldn’t be suitable for road speeds.
However, it could be useful for helping couriers or fast food deliverers to operate in an urban environment.
The patent application says: “The control loop stabiliser may include sensors for detecting balancing input. The balancing input may include information indicative of the linear velocity and angular velocity of the robotic motorcycle, the linear velocity and angular velocity of each wheel, and/or the orientation of each wheel.”
The technology could also underpin future electric two-wheelers.
It features two electric motors that belt drive the wheels, so it’s two-wheel-drive and two-wheel-steer.
Since it’s a Facebook product, it will probably also track where you go!
What do you think of the development of self-riding motorcycles and scooters? Leave your comments below.