Motorcycles

Yamaha's autonomous Motobot can't beat Valentino Rossi... yet

This racing robot can go fast, but Yamaha won't be satisfied until it can outrun a champion.

Yamaha

Yamaha has been hard at work on its autonomous Motobot racing bike since 2015, and this year, the company was confident enough to pit its creation against one of the best riders around.

Yamaha's Motobot goals for 2017 are twofold: Achieve a straight-line speed of 200 kph (124 mph) and beat Valentino Rossi -- a seven-time MotoGP champion -- in a lap around a racetrack. After accomplishing the first task, Yamaha set out to nail the second. Sadly, it was still about 30 seconds off Rossi's time, but it's getting there and that's the most important part.

The craziest part about Motobot is that the bike itself is unmodified from the factory. It's the humanoid robot atop the bike that manipulates the stock controls. Its six actuators are capable of shifting and accelerating around a track as its computers analyze all manner of data, whether it's engine speed or attitude.

Yamaha wants to use machine learning to have the robot "learn" the best lines and approaches as it tears down the track, with the eventual goal being a robot that's capable of besting the most accomplished human riders. Eventually, Yamaha believes its technology can be adapted to other modes of transportation, as well, including snowmobiles and personal watercraft.