For nearly two decades Honda's been investing huge money in its Asimo robot – a boy-like humanoid which has progressed from a wobbly set of mechanical legs in its early years to a running, dancing and tray-carrying little machine servant still wowing crowds at motor and tech shows around the world today.
But, even with all of Asimo's impressive advancements in balancing technology, there are still some more cynical showgoers asking what the point of such an expensive android is.
Now Honda has put some of its costly development to use in an application that could see the real world – a self-balancing motorcycle that can stand on two wheels without help from a rider. Honda showcased its new Riding Assist technology at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, where it rolled a remote control but otherwise normal looking NC750 out onto the stage all on its lonesome.
The Riding Assist-equipped motorcycle can do its thing from a standstill up to around 5km/h, balancing by itself with computer controlled steering inputs in much the same way as regular rider would. Unlike the similar BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100 concept bike, Honda's effort uses lean angle sensors instead of heavy gyroscopes to stay upright, counteracting tipping points with electronic steer-by-wire inputs and front fork angle adjustments. Some of the scientific voodoo at work here was transferred directly from Asimo, as well as Honda's Segway-esque, one-wheeled mobility scooter called the Uni-Cub.
If the Riding Assist tech makes it to production, and Honda has said it would be relatively easy to do, it would likely be marketed as a safety feature for beginner to novice riders. But, what experienced superbike breakfast-runner wouldn't also get a kick out of parking up alongside his old school kickstand buddies, and walking away while his bike stands perfectly vertical on its own? We would.