With its Motorrad Vision Next 100, BMW shows off a futuristic motorcycle concept with a zero-emission powerplant and advanced safety systems that eliminate the need for protective gear.
Wayne CunninghamManaging Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Watch this: This BMW concept motorcycle won't let you fall
Cars may be gaining advanced safety features, from collision prevention to lane keeping assist, but motorcycles have been left behind. Sometime in the next 30 years, BMW expects to change that, showing its first idea for an unspillable bike with the Motorrad Vision Next 100.
This concept motorcycle includes active safety systems that the company claims would eliminate the need for riders to wear a helmet and leathers.
The Motorrad Vision Next 100 is the latest in a line of concept vehicles from the BMW Group intended to show the next 100 years for the company's vehicles. It all started in March of this year with the BMW Vision Next 100, a concept indicating the future direction of BMW cars. That was followed up in June with the Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100 and Mini Vision Next 100 concepts, all future vehicles that played on each brands strengths.
For the Motorrad concept, BMW envisions a self-right system, whether the bike is stationary or moving. The advantages while stopped mean no more dented tanks or crushed turn signals, and while underway, BMW suggests this system would make the bike more nimble, and easier to handle. Similarly, the bike's computer understands its handling limits, like vehicle stability systems in a car, and can either suggest corrections to the rider or make them itself. These corrections could involve helping it bank in a corner, for example.
Designed for the Motorrad Vision Next 100, the rider would wear a special visor that provides wind protection but also displays useful information, kind of like Google Glass. Responding to eye movements, the rider can call up a rear view image, navigation, or telemetry for the bike, with its suggested banking, throttle and steering angles. The visor also displays emergency information, warning the rider of impending collisions.
For the frame, BMW came up with a flexible architecture where the entire structure of the bike helps steer it. And although the electric drive unit doesn't need pistons, BMW replicates its classic boxer-style engine, with two to four horizontally-opposed pistons. For the Motorrad Vision Next 100, that means the drive unit fits into a compact form when the bike is stopped, then expands out to the sides when moving. These side protrusions help protect the rider and positively affect aerodynamics.
BMW concept envisions a self-balancing two-wheeled future
With a little bit of Speed Racer flair, the tires actively adjust their tread depending on the road surface. BMW says they would serve to damp road harshness, making for more comfortable touring, and also improve grip.
As many automakers, including BMW, prepare for a world full of self-driving cars, motorcycles would seem to have little place in this future. Yet the Motorrad Vision Next 100 takes into consideration future technologies and embraces them, saving a little room for fans of two-wheelers.