The self-driving automobile, or autonomous vehicle (AV), is slowly but surely creeping towards reality, with Honda releasing the first publicly available Level 3 AV in 2021. With only 100 made available to select customers in Japan only, the Honda Legend will allow drivers to take their eyes off the road in certain situations, with Honda’s Traffic Jam Pilot system taking over. Recent patent applications show that Honda’s motorcycle division may be working towards a similar goal of allowing the motorcycle to at least partially take control of steering duties.
Honda’s patent application drawings show a fairly standard GoldWing that is equipped with a servo setup that can actuate the steering via rods and Heim joints. Using information gleaned from the various sensors on the bike, such as the inertial measurement unit (IMU) and wheel speed sensors, the system could in theory work as a power steering assist (similar to one of Honda’s previous patent filings), but also has the ability to apply steering inputs independently. The system has sensors integrated into it to measure steering angle and force, adding more useful data input that the computers can use to decide what steering actions to take.
Fully developed, a computer-controlled steering system could prevent or control speed wobbles, keep the bike upright in situations where the wheels are sliding, or take full control of steering duties completely.
Motorcycle technology has, like it or not, followed fairly closely to automotive trends, adopting fuel-injection, ABS, traction control, and radar cruise control, once those advancements were widespread in the car market. With autonomous cars seemingly close to being a reality in the marketplace, how long will it be before the motorcycle follows suit? As the first car company to reach Level 3 AV status, Honda would be a safe bet as the first to bring the technology to two wheels, and their latest patent filings bring them one step closer.