A self-driving motorcycle developed in the U.K. allows pain-free road testing of autonomous cars.
AB Dynamics, based in Bradford on Avon, 110 miles (177 km) west of London, says that unlike slow-moving pedestrians and cyclists, the combination of rapid acceleration and extreme maneuverability means motorcycles present a particular challenge to an autonomous vehicle or advanced driver-assistance systems.
The riderless motorcycle, co-developed by AB Dynamics, a leading supplier of advanced automotive test systems, allows autonomous vehicle testing using a wider variety of traffic combinations including overtaking, traffic filtering and lane splitting.
It worked with AutoRD, partially funded by Innovate UK and the U.K. government, to develop the technology needed to make a bike go where it’s told – without rider input – and build a prototype, the BMW C1, to demonstrate it.
The BMW C1 was chosen for ease of conversion; it has antilock braking, no manual clutch and a roof structure convenient for mounting sensors.
To avoid risk to a human rider, initial development of the interactions between motorcycles and autonomous or ADAS-equipped vehicles was carried out using AB Dynamics’ LaunchPad, a pilotable platform designed to carry vulnerable road-user targets. This includes pedestrian, cyclist and moped dummies. The chassis is robust enough to cope with being driven over by a vehicle.
However, the system is limited in speed capability and how accurately a real motorcycle is represented.
Richard Simpson, AB Dynamics senior systems engineer, says the riderless BMW C1 motorcycle allows more comprehensive testing of autonomous or ADAS-equipped vehicles without risking injury to a real rider.
“It also permits greater accuracy, repeatability and consistency between tests than any human rider could achieve,” Simpson says in a statement. “This motorcycle is another excellent tool to complement our other testing equipment for autonomous and ADAS development.”
AB Dynamics integrated the on-board robot controller, which runs the company’s standard RC software, allowing programming of the motion of the motorcycle and path-following via GPS positioning in the same way as a car driven by the company’s robots.
AB Dynamics’ cross-platform Synchro technology allows coordination of the bike with other moving objects, such as cars or ADAS targets, and synchronizes all data generated for later review.
Mechanical integration of the riderless systems was carried out by AutoRD.
“Future legislation and vehicle safety testing could require ADAS systems and autonomous vehicles to be validated in increasingly complex scenarios, and the riderless motorcycle is a useful tool for achieving this,” Simpson says.
AB Dynamics says the demonstrator proves the technology works, and the company expects interest from a range of customers working in ADAS development and those developing tests for self-driving cars.