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Honda Riding Assist: Honda Invents Something Almost as Disturbing as Self-Driving Cars (with video)

If the prospect of self-driving cars in our daily lives isn’t horrific enough, maybe the motorcycle displayed by Honda at the CES Show in Las Vegas earlier today does the trick. Featuring “Riding Assist”, the motorcycle refuses to fall over even if you have no sense of balance on two wheels. The motorcycle can even follow you around like a pet.

Apparently, Honda is not using gyros in this motorcycle (which can also automatically extend its wheelbase and fork rake), rather balancing technology originally developed by Honda for the “UNI-CUB”, which appears to be nothing more than a seat that looks a bit like a penguin (see picture).

In any event, we won’t be testing the Honda Riding Assist motorcycle, nor will we lure it home with a bowl of pet food.


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190 Comments

  1. Tom R says:

    Actually, I don’t think that the concept of self-driving cars is horrific at all. Compared to the flawed, distracted, and moody humans now operating vehicles, I think they would make it much safer to be a motorcyclist.

  2. slipjoint says:

    Drink and ride all you want, no penalty for forgetting to put your feet down at stoplights. Considering most of Honda’s offerings it’s not bad looking either.

  3. steveinsandiego says:

    well, isn’t this such light-hearted reading? LOL. hey, i kinda like the technology, mainly cuz i’m 68 years old/young, and needing a lighter mc. i don’t envision robot takeover or goobermint mandates, at least in my relatively short time remaining on this here terra firma. yep, i could likely use such an outfitted scoot right now.

  4. gpokluda says:

    This is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Way cooler than the fake retros the manufacturers are tossing out by the handful. Too bad MD is missing the boat on this.

  5. Shmitty says:

    I think it’s important that Honda debuted this at the CES show and not in a motorcycle show. This, like the UNI-CUB or Asimo robots, is a proof of concept machine that is unlikely to make it to the real world anytime soon. Like many of the commenters below, I find it disturbing to look at the end of motorcycling as we know it. Face it, with AI coming to the physical world we operate in, starting with cargo transportation (tractor trailers), motorcycling has no choice but to adapt or disappear. Technological evolution is at work and is unlikely to stop barring a worldwide calamity. But just like a person who has had a near-death experience, I intend to make the most of the time I have left to enjoy my lifelong love of riding. I hope that all of you do the same.

  6. Jeremy in TX says:

    Lots of negative comments on this one. I actually think it is a pretty cool piece of technology. Short guys could ride KTM Enduros without dreading stoplights. Amputees could get back on two wheels. Those with fragile joints or diminished musculature wouldn’t have to worry about holding up a Goldwing in stop and go traffic. It is no option I would pay for at my age and condition, but really… If all this technology takes away from the riding experience is putting a foot down at a stop, what is so disturbing about this?

    • joe b says:

      Taking this to the next level, instead of self driving cars… I open my phone app, call for a Uber pickup, and a driverless motorcycle appears and stops in front of me. I hop on, turn off the auto function, and drive it home. Then, after arriving home, I pay for the ride, close my app, and watch it turn the auto function back on, and drive off by itself, to go and pick up someone else. Fantasy? The world is changing more than we think.

      • todd says:

        Or, if I’m stuck at home or work, I can send my bike out to ride some tasty roads and stop at all the great views. I can experience it all through the wonder of my VR headset via my smart phone and high bandwidth internet connection. Sharing “my” experience on Instagram will also be a plus.

  7. jcott says:

    Long term this could be really big. It opens the possibility of fully enclosed commuter motorcycles, without outriggers. Think about that. Electric, enclosed, usable year-round. Less footprint on the road than a full size electric car, so in addition to mpg efficiency, it reduces congestion on the roadways, while also making it more practical – less need for gear, you can wear your suit to the office. Easier to transport items (laptop, etc) in an enclosed vehicle, and easier to grab some groceries on the way home.

  8. Stuki Moi says:

    I doubt Honda will step up to that particular plate anytime soon, but it would be more impressive to see a version of this outride Marquez around Motegi, on equal hardware…..

    Or heck, per Norm’s comment below, perhaps it already is!

  9. Speed90 says:

    Skynet has just become “self aware”.

  10. Stuki Moi says:

    It’s a big deal in Japan, where the riding population, like Metusalem before them, is on the cusp of crossing the divide, from positively ancient to flat out dead. 20 years from now, Japanese highways will be full of dead guys still riding and driving around from H2 station to H2 station on/in Hydrogen powered autonomous bikes and cars.

  11. Neil says:

    I just would find it strange if a motorcycle were trying to do something against what I myself was doing, unless it is only at 5 mph or slower. Would I ease up on the bars as I come to a stop or what? There’s no point in my riding no hands. So?

  12. notarollingroadblock says:

    I’m wondering if there are 2 modes: conventional steering in steep rake mode, then assisted balance and steer-by-wire in flat rake mode.

  13. TexTrain says:

    Wow. Pretty cool technology. A lot of engineering went into figuring out how to save the weight of a kickstand.

  14. Denny says:

    I like the change of rake angle since it adds to stability when needed, rest of it I do not care about. I want to have the feel of lean in my hand/ butt.

    • MGNorge says:

      I’m sure you’d be able to lean into turns as with all motorcycles (2-wheels). It’s at crawling speeds and when stopped.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “I like the change of rake angle since it adds to stability when needed”

      correct, that’s what the kit’s doing when it changes it’s rake and trail. engaging my aging engineer’s brain, i think i can safely go out on a limb and declare the system does NOT work “autonomously” until it’s first put by the user into this configuration to add more longitudinal stability.

      pay attention guys, even though they don’t verbalize it…? the answer to all the identical questions of “OMG, why variable rake and trail?” is essentially right there in the video. “steep trim” rake and trail is only available in “manual mode” or “normal ride height”.

      need further proof…? also observe the aspect ratio of that crazy front tire. last time i saw a profile that FLAT and wide was on a vintage 750 Paso circa 1988, Ducatisti know what i’m talking ’bout (Willis)…

      http://tinyurl.com/j3umxtx

      modern bikes turn by camber thrust and the act of PURPOSELY having a certain amount of “differential diameter” between the front and rear tyres. thus that tyre is flat not by accident…? not to mimic some “pseudo bobber style” created by Hipsters…? but for a calculated REASON. remember, these are Japanese dudes, they don’t do things for “appearances” they do things for “purposes”.

      it’s flat to have it turn more like a dual track vehicle (read a car) without leaning. i suspect that’s also why they lockout the bars (though they certainly could’ve made them swing) and have them NOT follow the movement of the wheel. ie. it REMOVES the need for system to deal with the extra inertia up high. leave the bars fixed and you then can remove it from the system equation. balance is then achieved by simple keeping the wheels under the center of mass.

      if everyone recalls, the gold standard dimension for an OEM front is the now ubiquitous (and relatively narrow) 120/70-17. this wasn’t always the case. that’s the chassis engineer’s datum or “reference dimension” off which he works backwards (front to rear) creating the overall handling characteristic of the motorcycle.

      this process is the same for one of Willie G’s designers modelling the latest FATBOY chopper at HD, for an Ohlins guru in the paddock at Misano, or Furusawa himself optimizing the mass moment of the first ever Crossplane M1 to suit VR46. the front tyre of a racing motorbike (or any bike) has an analogy in aeronautics. it’s the equivalent to what the “leading edge” is to an airfoil in wing design. it’s the first element to “see the air” so to speak. or in this case, the first element to SEE the vehicle into a turn, or the first to see a bump in the road and transmit it into the suspension and onto the bike/rider combo (see entry for YOU).

      • jimmihaffa says:

        re: “thus that tyre is flat not by accident…? not to mimic some “pseudo bobber style” created by Hipsters…? but for a calculated REASON.”

        Kawasaki engineers must have missed this edict when they stuck a 150 cross-section width front tire on my Vulcan 2000 but dang I feel soooo pseudo cool

  15. TexinOhio says:

    I do like it for the prospect of extending a riders time in the saddle. Seen too many times and met too many older folks that have had to give up riding because of loss of strength due to age.

    There are many people out there, that to them riding is everything. Extending their time to do so would go a long way to giving them more time to enjoy their passion and extend their quality of life.

    Trike conversions are a good but very costly option, then again we have no idea what this kind of tech would cost either.

  16. RichBinAZ says:

    Did you notice that every time the front wheel turns the handlebars don’t move. It goes lock to lock without turning the bars.
    If the bars are just arm rests, how does it know where you want to go?
    Imagine this… you want to go left, it says NO!

  17. ducdug says:

    After watching the video, I see that the means of self-balance looks like the same method a rider would use to keep the bike upright at very slow speeds – sawing the front wheel back and forth. While this is useful when accomplished by the rider, how will it fare when the bike is doing it as the rider is holding on to the grips? The video only showed people on the bike not holding the grips. Just like some tankslappers are exacerbated by the rider fighting it, won’t the bike’s attempt to keep the bike vertical be prone to failure by the rider’s resistance to the grips moving on their own? I guess you could learn to let the bike finish braking and let go of the controls so it stays up on its own! It might take an entirely new breed of rider to mesh with this thing.

  18. Norm G. says:

    re: “Apparently, Honda is not using gyros in this motorcycle (which can also automatically extend its wheelbase and fork rake), rather balancing technology originally developed by Honda for the “UNI-CUB”

    liars… (i knew it!!!)

    this technology was not originally developed by Honda for no damn UNI-CUB (UNI-CUB my ass) that name’s just a “ruse” they’re throwing out to see if you’ll bite. this technology (same as that seamless transmission) was developed for a little known bike referred to as…

    (wait for it)

    THE RC213. dunno, maybe you’ve heard of this contraption sporting an HRC label…?

    • MGNorge says:

      Norm, you promised you’d be good! Remember what the doctor told you!

    • Denny says:

      Who does not lie, does not survive. 🙂

      Seriously, it is the outcome which counts. Maybe, as MG says it will add some new quality.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “Who does not lie, does not survive…”

        …or mysteriously win 10 straight in a public (but covert) 2014 test of the system under racing conditions.

        a feat (which given human frailty and weakness) they know will psychologically go on to be credited to the “scary talent” of human beings. talent that is really neither here nor there when one takes into account the $TENS OF MILLIONS of dollars being spent on hardware and personnel to “prop up” that ONE individual.

  19. Tim says:

    I already planned to ride into my 80’s. This could extend my riding habit well into my 90’s.

  20. wjf says:

    this could help in the trials courses

  21. mickey says:

    I’m surprised MCD wouldn’t test this, I mean you’ve tested DCT’s and electric bikes, this is just another motorcycle innovation.

    I didn’t see anything in there that said you didn’t have to pilot it like any other motorcycle. Only that it wouldn’t fall over at a stand still. I don’t understand the adjustable rake feature, but whatever.

    a lightweight bike that wouldn’t fall over would be handy for beginners, smaller adults (women) and elderly riders alike. The reason so many now buy trikes is because of fear of falling over. No longer an issue. Can still lean thru the curves but won’t fall over at a light.Good plan.

    Novel.

    • MGNorge says:

      I guess Dirck is drawing the line! Maybe he’ll have a change of heart..or not? 🙂

      • Dirck Edge says:

        I might. Is there a line we draw before machines do everything for us and human skill becomes irrelevant? It’s rewarding to develop skill and employ our wits, and overcome challenges. Is this a slippery slope we are on?

        • mickey says:

          This seems benign compared to ABS, ride modes, traction control, and the other myriad of electronics available on motorcycles you have already tested to me.

          Like my younger brother says about his new T120 Bonneville.. ” I don’t need a computer to tell me to slow down in the rain”.

          Again the video didn’t demonstrate or say that the motorcycle would pilot itself, only that it wouldn’t fall over at a stop light or in your driveway, unless there is more to it than what we are reading and seeing in the vid.

          • todd says:

            None of my current motorcycles fall over at a stop light or in my driveway and they don’t have this technology.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            Sure, but will they follow you around the grocery store like an obedient puppy?

        • mickey says:

          Todd, I’m impressed. I don’t know many very experienced motorcyclists, that haven’t dropped a bike or two in their garage, driveway, backing one up, in a parking lot etc…I know when I worked in the industry, we sold a ton of levers, mirrors, turn signals, shift levers, engine covers, handlebars, headlight rims, instrument covers, footpeg ribbers etc to people who did.

          • todd says:

            One time, long ago, I hopped on my GB500, hit the starter, dabbed it into first and let out the clutch. I came to an abrupt halt as soon as my bright yellow brake lock smacked the caliper. Lucky for me, the bike is light enough that I was able to catch it before it (and I) hit the ground. Don’t think I would have been able to do that on a Gold Wing…

  22. Jon H says:

    At 85 my uncle traded his 900 Vulcan in on a Goldwing Trike. This last summer. He had both legs amputated just below the kneee. He really still wants to ride.
    Be cool for disabled people.

  23. MonsterJ says:

    I can’t wait for the trials bike version to come out!

  24. PatrickD says:

    Hmm, maybe it could kick in if an in-helmet breathalyser says so? So there’s your ride home from the bar, rather than a taxi and having to recover your bike the next day.

    Cue Homer Simpson….

  25. Bill says:

    Hey! This is great! I won”t have to push a grocery cart anymore-it can just follow me.

  26. mcmotohistory says:

    I want to whistle and have my bike come to me!! Good Boy

  27. Ellis Tomago says:

    This is not the progress I asked for.

    What I wanted was the thorium nuclear motorcycle that didn’t pollute and never had to be gassed up.

    Instead they give us an NC700 that does the riding for you and will follow you around while you walk.

  28. Steve Bradshaw says:

    Love the wasp butt with room for about 10 inches of travel, paired with what looks like 2 inches of front travel. Guess they want it to look like a race bike. What a farce.

  29. todd says:

    I don’t see how this would improve riding at all. I think Honda can do anything that they put their minds to but I just don’t see the need on motorcycles.

  30. jimmihaffa says:

    Like it or not, self-driving and collision avoidance systems are the wave of the future across all sectors of transportation. This is amazing technology with obvious practical application.

  31. MGNorge says:

    But will it prevent a high side? I’m into tech in a big way but motorcycling to me is, for the most part, a kind of escape to a simpler state of mind. Being one with the machine and all. Fascinating tech but nothing that would draw me in to take up riding. But, who knows, maybe there are people out there, prospective riders, to which this would be a plus?

    • Norm G. says:

      Q: But will it prevent a high side?

      A: damn skippy, high side, low side, tank slapper, whatever attitude you want maintained, it can be programmed INTO the system.

      in aviation world it’s known as an advanced form of AUTO-PILOT (remember that term?) now available at the consumer level called “Envelope Protection” and it can be found as low as the Garmin G1000 Avionic Suites fitted to many new Diamond and Cirrus aircraft.

      oh yeah, and the HondaJet.

  32. John says:

    And of course it has drooping boob headlight technology.

  33. BIG BELLY says:

    This is huge!
    As a Baby Boomer, I could ride into my 90’s.
    I’m looking forward to it.

  34. Hot Dog says:

    My old girlfriend could swing her big bottom and create a gravity field, she’d be a double negative on this thing and crash immediately .

  35. Jeremy in TX says:

    Great! Now we won’t have to hear any more complaints about the ever increasing seat height trend.

  36. CrazyJoe says:

    Supercars manage to sell with all their electronics. All the car companies probably by the end of the decade will have self driving models. And have you seen the prices of cars and trucks going up to unaffordable hieghts. And the jump in traffic fatalities. It might be in the near future all I could afford is a Renault Twiz or a toyota three wheeler. Since I’m sleep deprived and my abilities vary day to day I would like something that would keep me from colliding with a dump truck especially since there aint much to a Twiz. Sooner or later they will decide bikes are to unsafe and this technology might be the only thing keeping them from being phased out. Crashing might be a major reason why people don’t buy the things in the first place but when it becomes widely available who knows.

    • Neil says:

      It is extremely expensive to put crashed motorcyclists together again. We could use some rider aids. We make HUGE horsepower to weight ratio motorcycles and we crash them, a lot. Motorcycles SHOULD have a breathalyzer to start them after sunset. A friend was killed weeks before retiring with TWO pensions, after he drank too much and crashed his cruiser. ABS DOES help lower accident numbers. It’s nice to be able to shut it off if I want or choose a bike without it.

  37. Gort says:

    Hold my Beer and watch this!

  38. xLaYN says:

    I see the anti fall feature positive, there is always the possibility of a low speed drop and this could help.

  39. dt 175 says:

    Oh for goodness sake! On the other hand, Wayne Rainey can ride thru the pits again…

    • Scott says:

      But would he really want to?

      • Dave says:

        Have you seen Doug Henry ride his frame/harness MX bike?

        • Scott says:

          Yes, I have, and he operates it all by himself, just like Rainey operates his own race kart. Why would these guys need or want a motorcycle that drives them around?

          • Dave says:

            I don’t think that’s the point. This is a concept to demonstrate that Honda has computerized low to zero speed balance with an otherwise conventional motorcycle.

            For guys like Rainey and Henry, it could mean being able to manage a motorcycle without help. For the rest of us, it could mean another level of autonomous safety technology, a more crash-proof motorcycle.

  40. Trpldog says:

    I can’t tell you how revolting that is to me. But, I’ve only got 40+ years of riding under my belt – what do I know.

  41. Rennie says:

    I’m thinking my DR650 feels like a motorcycle and I enjoy thinking while riding.

  42. Scott says:

    Someone here once took issue with me over my aversion to Honda’s DCT automatic transmission, which I stated I had no use for, and would never buy.

    Okay… Am I allowed to hate THIS???

    • Neil says:

      Rode a CTX700 with the automatic and it was really good. It worked better than manually shifting that particular low powered motor. My own manual shift points were not as good as the computer. It calculated the proper torque/HP crossover points and did it beautifully. In city traffic, one does not always want to be using a clutch all the time, especially for commuting. It’s really nice to just ride and let the tranny do its thing. That is NOT to say that we all have to want one, nor that it is a bad idea. I have friends who just don’t have the coordination for the clutch.

      • Stuki Moi says:

        “I have friends who just don’t have the coordination for the clutch.”

        Is it really safe for those guys to be mixing it up with aggressive 4 wheeled traffic? I’m not being facetious. I have bicycle riding friends who keep falling off their bikes almost weekly, even after decades of riding. I’m kind of happy for them, that they are not given any encouragement to take up bike commuting through SF and LA rush hour….

    • joe b says:

      Probably me, your thinking about. I commented I had one, liked it, and humbly tried to point out some of the advantages to those that immediately hated it, not knowing anything about it, or ever trying it out, and got lambasted for not being in the Kool-Aid line. Can you hate this, well yeah, why not. I bet your bike has a starter button. (humor)

  43. Dino says:

    It is all fun and games, until software locks up, and the system crashes into the side of an SUV.

    No thanks. Leave that for the novices that want to take the next step beyond virtual reality.

    • Neil says:

      People crash all the time because their brain makes a mistake. Guy came over a mild hill with a van on the street to the right. He didn’t slow enough and the van pulled out. Right into the side of the van, the driver of which could have had sun in his eyes, or someone talking behind him and so on. If someone is waiting at a stop sign, they WILL pull out. You cannot just race past them. Yet, people do every day of every year and they crash.

  44. bad Chad says:

    If old man Honda were still around, we wouldn’t be seeing crap like this!

  45. rapier says:

    The main thing is that this motorcycle doesn’t need people. More generally and more importantly the machines need people less and less. Most generally of all, we now serve the machines. Usually this idea is expressed, half seriously, in terms of humans being slaves to robots but the word robot carries with it some image but in fact all ‘smart’ machines are robots. You probably don’t accept that they rule already. Fair enough, but I disagree.

    I will allow that we love motorcycles because we control them. It is in the most general way that I say we now serve the machines. Think of your job for instance.

    • Randy D. says:

      “we love motorcycles because we control them”. I never thought of them like that, but you are right. Whatever they do we are responsible for it and relish in it. At least I do. The exact opposite of what a robot is about. This must be why I don’t want ABS or any other safety addons to make my bike riding easier. I want to have to do it all myself and marvel at my accomplishments. If I’m not capable to master my MC demands then I will stop riding or trade down to a less challenging bike. A man gots ta know his limitations.

      As a former amateur road racer in my youth I already learned skills needed to safely ride my MCs up to now but also know when my skills aren’t what they once were.

    • GoodlyRun says:

      I, for one, welcome our robot overlords.

      • Neil says:

        Exactly. You are working or home enjoying yourself. You send your google car and Honda robot with get you some dinner. Meanwhile you have time to write another 100 dollars worth of software code, shovel your driveway or spend some much needed time with your wife.

  46. Al Banta says:

    No thanks!

  47. VFR Marc says:

    Brilliant. Lots of possibilities. The future is here, man. Adapt or perish.

  48. North of Missoula says:

    Hopefully I will be dead before this technology is mandated by the Government.

  49. Bob says:

    I don’t like where this is going. On the other hand, it could revolutionize trials riding.

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