Remember a couple of months back, when BMW announced their crazy futuristic Vision Next 100 concept bike? Well, Honda has jumped into the ring with their own self-balancing bike, and rather than looking like something out of the latest Hollywood blockbuster Sci-Fi movie, their Riding Assist motorcycle looks pretty much like a current NC700X–albeit with a robotic-looking LED headlight fairing.
The Riding Assist (surely not the actual name of any upcoming production model) uses robotic technology developed for Honda’s UNI-CUB “personal mobility device” to self-balance, rather than relying on gyroscopes, which are heavier and would likely alter the “feel” of riding the bike. Instead, the Riding Assist only activates its self-balancing technology when the rider slows to 3 mph or less. It works by disconnecting the fork from the handlebars, extending the rake to both lower the bike and lengthen the wheelbase, and the computer brain within makes minute adjustments to the front wheel to balance the bike. Watching it on the video is both creepy and cool.
It even appears to have a function that allows it to follow its owner around at walking speed, like an loyal dog, presumably so the owner can lead it to a parking space (since it looks like the handlebars are disabled when it’s in self-balancing mode, eliminating the rider’s ability to steer at slow speeds).
Honda says the Riding Assist will appeal to those who might be intimidated by balancing and maneuvering a big, heavy motorcycle, or for those who are vertically challenged enough to find that getting both feet solidly on the ground is a stretch. They’re right, but what does this mean for the motorcycling experience? Time will tell. Until then, the Riding Assist is a concept bike, and Honda mentioned no plans to begin production of a self-balancing bike. We have to imagine it’s only a matter of time, though, just like autonomous vehicles.