Yamaha built a robot that can ride their sports bikes – an agile, complicated machine that can go fast... really fast. However, it lost out to a human racer in a timed lap around a circuit. Of course, the human in question is no ordinary man – it is Valentino Rossi, one of the greatest GP racers of all time.
The Yamaha Motobot is a project that was first started in 2015 with the aim of creating an artificial intelligence-powered robot that can ride without making any mechanical modifications to the bike. Motobot was built to control a motorcycle using actuators, each given charge of different controls. There are six in all, reports Popular Mechanics, and they are used to control the steering through the handlebar, and the throttle, front brakes, clutch, gear shifter and rear brakes.
The robot was built by Yamaha in collaboration with SRI International with the goal of beating Rossi, says the report. According to the team in charge of the project, it was created to surpass humans, learning and growing for three years.
Rossi races for Yamaha MotoGP and is also a co-worker in the project. The 38-year-old Italian has 115 GP victories in his career, which is the second-most wins by any racer ever, and is known for his aggressive riding style. So, it is definitely not an easy task to beat this man on the racetrack.
The race was organised by Yamaha at the Thunderhill Raceway Park, a two-mile course in California, but it did not have the two riders go head-to-head. Rather, Rossi set a lap time first and Motobot then tried to beat that time.
Rossi set a lap time of 85.74 seconds, while Motobot did it in 117.504. "I can see you now, far off in the distance," said the robot as it conceded defeat in the video. "I will someday catch up to you," it added.
Robots and artificial intelligence (AI) have already proven that they can easily match and beat humans at various tasks, including video games, board games, chess, and several other such activities based on logic and computing. AI can crack human verification tools like Captchas as well as create better versions of itself.
But, as far as riding a motorcycle is concerned, it looks like humans still have an edge, at least for now.