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Yamaha built a motorcycle-driving robot, and it's already challenging a world champion

Yamaha built a motorcycle-driving robot, and it's already challenging a world champion


Watch out, Valentino Rossi

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The Tokyo Motor Show, known for far-out concepts, is underway in Japan. We've already seen some pretty strange designs ourselves, but none of them are anything like what Yamaha just announced: an autonomous, motorcycle-riding humanoid robot called Motobot.

There's little detail beyond an impressive video of Motobot cruising around an abandoned airfield. We see it take turns, tap the clutch, and twist the throttle, all while somehow remaining upright. It's quite an impressive sight to behold, even if the robot still needs a pair of training wheels.

It drives, it speaks, and it's taking aim at the best MotoGP driver

As if the footage wasn't hair-raising enough, Yamaha plays on our latent automatonophobia by giving Motobot a childish, robotic voice, and having the robot biker call out MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi. "I was created to surpass you," it says. "I am improving my skills every day." Spooky. There's no word on when (or if) the two will ever face each other, but the video certainly hints at the possibility.

For that to happen, Motobot has to get better, and right now the company is taking things slowly. Yamaha says that, eventually, the goal is for Motobot to be able to ride an unmodified motorcycle on a racetrack at more than 200 kilometers per hour. Like most high-concept projects, the idea is to take the lessons learned over the life of this project and apply them to Yamaha's current business, with specific regard to rider safety and rider support systems. The company also says it hopes to use the technology behind Motobot to "pioneer new lines of business." I have no idea what that means, but I'm definitely excited to find out after seeing Motobot in action.

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