The New BMW Self Driving Motorcycle
“Look, Ma, no hands.”
BMW has unveiled the Motorrad Vision Next 100, its concept of the motorcycle of the next century. This is the fourth and final concept vehicle BMW has produced to celebrate its centennial. The other vehicles are a Rolls, a Mini, and a BMW. Though the motorcycle probably will never hit the production line, many of its features will. As Harald Krueger, BMW’s CEO, puts it, “I am selling emotions, passion. If a customer just needs to go from Point A to Point B, they don’t need a BMW.”
The bike has a connection to Washington State, too. It’s mostly made of ultra-light carbon fiber, which is produced in a plant in Moses Lake. In a partnership with SGL, the world’s single-largest carbon fiber producer, BMW has expanded the plant to provide carbon fiber for its i-series cars. The carbon fiber body makes the motorcycle very light and helps it stand on its own when parked. The gyro-stabilization system helps with that, too. The lightweight frame aluminum and carbon fiber will also improve both range and performance.
The concept bike’s shape is loosely based on BMW’s iconic triangular frame. It has no front fork. Instead, it has a flexible, “bionic” frame, the “Flexframe,” which does away with all joints and is supposed to make the vehicle easier to steer. At higher speeds, the whole frame is firm, so the handlebars are harder to turn, and it becomes more flexible during low-speed turning and cruising.
The engine looks like a classic gas engine, but it’s not. Instead, it’s an electric drive-train, so it’s emission-free. The engine’s outer housing, where the pistons would be in a gas engine, extends outward while you drive, making it more aerodynamic, and pulls back into the frame when you stop. BMW already has the i3 city car, which is battery-electric, and the i8 hybrid sports car, both of which evidence a commitment to electric vehicles.
You won’t find any gauges, either. You wear a visor that uses augmented reality technology. What you see depends on what you ask for or where you look. When you look straight ahead, all you see is the road unless the bike must inform you of a hazard; look up or down to see the informative displays. According to BMW, this smart visor “spans the rider's entire field of view and provides not only wind protection but also relevant information, which it projects straight into the line of sight as and when it is needed." It shows routes, displays information about the bike that would otherwise be on dashboard gauges, acts as a rearview mirror, and allows the driver to control the bike using eye movements and finger gestures. Such systems are expected to be available for motorcycles in the fairly near future because they are starting to be available in consumer electronics.
BMW also gives the driver a suit that has monitors your pulse and temperature and then provides intrinsic air conditioning and heating. It also gives drivers navigational signals through vibrations in the sleeves and legs.
Further, the motorcycle has sensors and a “digital companion” for crash avoidance. The digital companion displays in the visor and shows the ideal line and your current banking angle. The driver can turn over control of the vehicle to this self-driving technology at any time. The self-balancing gyro stabilizers help keep the bike upright while you ride. And the tire tread morphs to suit the road surface. In fact, the whole motorcycle is designed to be safe enough so that you can ride without a helmet or leathers—too safe to fall.