Since 1923, BMW has been a leading innovator in motorcycle technology. Their advances include ABS, ride-by-wire, and multi-mode rider control, as well as a variety of weird suspension contraptions. In the 1930s and 40s, BMW was a world leader in the technology of mounting .50-cal. machine guns to sidecars.
Not resting on their laurels, BMW sees their leadership role as just taking off. Now they hope to usher in a whole new world of motorcycling with the first commercial riderless motorcycle, the K1600FL. The FL stands for “Fahrerlos” (German for “Riderless”), and this model promises unprecedented performance, reliability, safety, and politeness on the road. BMW’s chief of automation engineering Jürgen Narrenschiff explains the concept behind this machine:
“This begins with an understanding of the rider and machine as one system working together. It is the interaction of rider and machine that creates the overall riding and performance experience. Once we see this as one whole, we can ask the question, what is the weakest part in this system? Clearly, it is the human part. So, now we must simply eliminate the weakest part.”
BMW’s research showed that the human part is not only responsible for a majority of accidents, but also for poor performance.
“The human part’s on-board computer is a very old model, and it functions very poorly when trying to calculate things like the correct entry speed for a curve or how fast an oncoming car is moving. It reacts too slow to emergencies, then overreacts, often making the situation worse. It can also completely shut down when it encounters something as simple as a scantily-clad attractive pedestrian. Let’s face it, the human part’s computer was not properly design for motorcycle performance.”
The K1600FL’s computer, by contrast, can track and predict the motion of every object within its view, can factor in tire wear and inflation, road surface and banking, humidity, traffic densitiy, grade and incline, and sunspot activity when entering turns. This bike will hit the perfect apex every time. Eliminating the human part also reduces the weight of the machine by up to 250lbs. of “useless blubber,” according to Narrenschiff.
The riderless machine will also be an advantage to busy motorcycle owners who find they just don’t have as much time as they would like to take the bike out on the open road. The K1600FL can be programmed to go on scenic mountain rides autonomously while the owner is at work, at home, or even asleep. This means more pure road time with less effort for the owner. The machine will even take selfies and post updates to the owner’s social media sites. With the voicelink app, an owner who is stressed out at work can touch one button and say, “Motorcycle, take a run down to the lake,” and the motorcycle will take care of the rest.
“We have finally identified what is holding back the future of optimal motorcycle performance, and we have removed it from the system. This is a revolution for motorcycling.”