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Discussion in 'Electric Motorcycles' started by T.S.Zarathustra, Mar 2, 2019.
The fact that an electric NC750 might be coming is interesting, but I fail to understand the fascination with self-balancing motorcycles. It's cool to watch a motorcycle roll around on its own and not fall over, but keeping the motorcycle from falling over is my job. It's kind of why I got into motorcycling in the first place.
Honda's system seems to be active only at low speeds and stopped. My feet are on the pegs at all times except for less than a bike length when rolling to a stop or starting out. Sometimes (like when approaching a stop sign and I can see everything I need before I stop), my wheels stop only for an instant and I keep my feet on the pegs. I ain't no trials rider, but it does make an otherwise boring commute more interesting. And developing skills is supposed to be a big part of riding, right?
If you need this kind of assist, is it fail-safe? if it's not, should you be riding at all? If you don't need it but want it anyway, why? Seriously - I'm interested in others' views on this.
Other manufacturers have systems that are fully autonomous and operate at all speeds. Which further begs the question, what's the point? The only good use I can see is on the test track while developing a new model. They can automate much of the track testing, eliminating the rider-to-rider and day-to-day inconsistency they have now. But for everyday motorcyclists? If the bike balances itself, why are you on a bike? Most riders have a car too. Just take that and ditch the bike. If being out in the breeze is your thing, make it a convertible.
Maybe I'm dense, but this seems like an answer to a question nobody asked.
So how about that electric NC750? Is it real? Can you get it without balance assist?
Nothing you can buy. I don't think you can buy the Honda yet either. Yamaha and BMW have concepts. I don't know much about the BMW, specifically if there's video of it doing motorcycle-like self-guided stuff. I remember seeing a video of the Yamaha on a test track. Not this one, but it shows track stuff beginning at 1:35.
If a bike can balance itself, and has side sensors, then it can emergency-dodge to avoid the soccer van approaching you from 5 o'clock as the driver texts their pals. Seems like a win.
I saw this awhile back. Great idea and technology from Honda. I'm not a hater to new tech, and I'd like to reserve final judgement until I try it out for myself. I'm also a proponent of ABS, traction control, and power modes on bikes. The more things to save your bacon the better...IMO. At the very least, it would be great for handicapped/disabled persons to be able to ride.
I'm not against rider aids that primarily leave the rider in control. What you describe is an extremely advanced rider aid. We are nowhere near the level of tech needed to pull it off. In controlled conditions? Sure - but the whole purpose would presumably be to work in the wild, where nothing is controlled. That's the challenge.
In order to emergency-dodge, the bike would need to know where it's going to dodge to. So it needs to make sure there's a 'there' there, that it's not filled with another vehicle, either now or by the time you get there, and if there isn't, whether it's safe to just brake without getting a hood ornament butt probe, or if some other tactic is needed, etc. That's a HUGE amount of data to sense and process, constantly, along with some decision-making as the event progresses - many times more than so-called autonomous systems do now.
Add to that the fact that guiding a 2 wheel vehicle is far more complex than a car. It's not just 50% more things to manage (2D to 3D) it's more like 3X more - because now anything you do in one axis has a direct, simultaneous influence on the other two. (That's why you can actually think about all that you do to guide a car. Your inputs have isolated effects. You can't do that while riding - or even walking. It's far too complex, so it gets relegated to muscle memory and reflex.)
Even all that does not encompass the large mass of the meatbag that flops around uncontrollably if you try snappy maneuvers, a mass which is only attached to the vehicle in the most tenuous fashion by a little friction and gravity, and which must remain on the vehicle for the snappy maneuver to be considered even remotely successful.
Think about it - a car could pull this off with little concern for the meatbags inside. They're just cargo. They're supposed to be strapped in (if not it's on them), so even if they flop around a bit, they're not going anywhere. A van-avoiding motorcycle has to pull off this maneuver off while balancing the meatbag like a circus juggler, even if it suddenly and unpredictably decides it wants to 'help' - which is actually likely, because it has reflexes. And on top of all that, managing the inputs from a wide variety of different meatbags, all of whom have different ideas of what that reflexive 'help' should be.
Will it happen? I think it's theoretically possible, eventually. But in a practical sense I'm betting it won't. We're probably far more likely to get much-improved blind spot sensing, and a communication standard for all vehicles to communicate with each other, and attrition of all the non-driver-aid-equipped vehicles much sooner. Those would make an emergency-dodge completely unnecessary.
An interesting idea for the disabled guy/gal who still wants to ride.
Maybe a bike that a midget/dwarf/little person can ride and not have to worry about falling over at a red light?
I agree that it seems like tech 99% of riders neither want nor need, but I appreciate someone spending the time/money for moto tech stuff.
Existing riders. In the US.
They don't buy the Honda NC700D, either.
The US is something like less than 1/3 of Honda's sales.
If you need [or even want?] a self-balancing moto.... to me at least.... you shouldn't be on a moto...
If I understand the principle correctly, the Honda system kicks out the front wheel to increase trail. As with any 2 wheel vehicle, starting from perfect balance, if left alone the bike will fall one way or the other. So the bike steers the fork to slightly shift the cg laterally so it falls back upright, until it falls again on its own and the cycle repeats. With high-precision sensors making it so only tiny corrections are needed, it looks like it's standing still. But it's not - it's a dynamic process. I don't think there was any mention of gyros in the system.
Since a 2 wheel vehicle is inherently unstable, motion of some sort must happen to facilitate the active correction needed to keep it upright.
My concern is that it has a narrow range of correction. Seems to me that even with exaggerated trail, there's not much range of cg shift that you can achieve. So if you can't support the bike on your own, you need to roll to a stop perfectly upright every time. Once stopped you might not be able to lean over too far off the side or the bike will fall. (In the videos of the Honda and BMW with a rider on board, the rider is perfectly still.) Confusing situations like a U-turn on a steeply-sloped street might throw you off outside the range of correction.
If you're really short, I wonder if you can fire it up before climbing on, tip it up off the sidestand to upright (slowly so you don't overshoot) and engage the self-balancing, then climb on from the side without the offset load of you climbing on making it topple over. I'm reasonably sure it can't lift itself off the sidestand.
Honda needs to provide much more video or other explanation to fill out what their intent for this technology is. Rolling around on a stage and following someone walking around in a building really doesn't tell us much in terms of real-world applications.
The hinge-in-the-middle operation of the Yamaha looks like it can accommodate substantially more cg offset, but that's only a mildly-educated guess.
If/when Honda releases an EM for sale, that will be a bigger development than anyone outside the company realizes. A very large part of Honda's corporate culture and identity revolves around the ICE. It's not so much that their vehicles are a means for selling ICEs (in spite of the fact that they make more ICEs than any other manufacturer in the world), it's who they are. Soichiro Honda was quoted as saying he had motor oil in his veins. Engines are why they are in business, not electric motors. Their engineering capabilities - automotive, electrical, even aircraft, are a match for any other company.
But to date they have refused to build any electric vehicle without being forced to.
Certainly not because they can't. In the 90s when GM was wowing the world with their EV1, Honda released the EV+, a modest econobox with all the excellence you'd expect of Honda. The EV1 got all the press, but the EV+ was the greater engineering achievement. Engineering design is much easier when you're breaking new ground with a sports coupe that is by definition limited in its mission. A do-it-all grocery-getter has far more compromises to balance, and compromise is where the engineering challenges lie.
Both the EV1 and EV+ were released solely to satisfy CARB requirements. Without them, Honda and GM would be restricted from selling cars in California, a HUGE market. They were both available for lease only, so the manufacturers maintained full ownership of the cars at all times - they didn't want them out in the wild indefinitely. When GM got worldwide heat for retrieving and crushing all the EV1s, including the follow-up documentary Who Killed the Electric Car that would lead directly to today's Volt and Bolt, Honda was doing exactly the same thing - and got no press for it at all. Nobody cared about a 'mundane' grocery-getter.
Honda can easily go toe-to-toe with any EM manufacturer. Today. They choose not to. I predict they won't enter the market until they see their market share or status as a tech innovator being threatened. They're not likely to enter until EMs are truly mainstream and profits are at stake. I suspect they have multiple active projects like the Assist-e to remain sharp and current so they're ready when it comes time to enter. And for the occasional press release to make it known the Big Dog isn't sleeping. But I think they'll be among the last to release an EM for sale.
I sure hope I'm wrong, because they can build a killer EM.
US is WAY less than 1/3rd of Honda's motorcycle sales. Honda sold more than 19 million motorcycles and scooters in 2018. They sold less than 1% of those in the US.
Have you seen people who are buying GoldWings?
A year or so ago next door neighbor's wife, who'd didn't ride motos, bought a big goldwing'ish moto - it may have been a goldwing or something similar but I couldn't get past the training wheels they put on it after she dropped it a couple of times. Literally training wheels that don't retract or anything.
Every time she'd go by I'd have to try not to fall on the ground - I couldn't stop myself from laughing loudly... I was talking with another neighbor - older, tough, gristled AZ guy with moto experience from the "old days" (I've been riding since the 60's) and as she rode by, with a terrified look on her face, training wheels and all (she was a large gal which only upped the comedic value) expressed that I thought it unwise for folks that didn't acquire good kinesthesia as a child would never really get good trying to attain it as an adult. It's sort of like trying to learn a language, it's not that you can't as an adult but you will never reach the fluency and lack accent the way someone that acquires the language very early in life while the brain is still more plastic for these skills.
And training wheels completely defeat the purpose of learning to ride a machine that relies on leaning to turn.
That's not to say if you didn't ride (or ski, surf, fly, bicycle or just about anything that leans to turn) you should just accept your fate and never ride a moto. But accept your fate that it's a longer learning process and you will almost certainly never attain high-level riding skills. Start small - even a 500cc'ish machine has plenty of juevos for a newb and can be plenty comfortable. Get time and work your way up. Take the classes, ride in the dirt, etc., etc.
So after a few months of training wheels, and I'm sorry, but I can't help but believe I was far from the only one that couldn't avoid laughing out loud, off go the training wheels. The a few months after that, she sells it - good for her since she always the terrified look.... but then bad for her - she buys this huge full dress hardley...
A month or so ago I see the neighbors unloading the new moto from the back of a flat bed tow truck.... and then her wheeling out of the house in a wheel chair with tib/fib fracture...