While movies like Bladerunner may have projected the inevitable escalation of machine sophistication to surpass our pathetic organic bodies in the distant future of 2019, Yamaha has begun to erode at our Motorsport superiority with the project Motobot back in 2015.
In the never-ending quest to make a motorcycle go as fast as possible around a race track, Motobot was pitted against the living legend and Yamaha factory-backed MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi. The battle took place nestled in the hills of northern California at Thunderhill Raceway's 2-mile west course.
For a 3-year-old Motobot was fairly quick around a track at 117.5 seconds but that was still 32 seconds behind Rossi's 85.74. A gap of that amount won't strike fear in our human hearts just yet but is still impressive that the engineering team behind Motobot have created an autonomous motorcycle capable of spinning up laps in a consistent manner.
Someday we may have multi manufacture race called "RoboGP", but until then Yamaha has access to the data of the fastest motorcycle riders in the world and no longer asks the question of "if" but "when" will the little blue robot surpass human rider lap times.
The interesting future for this technology goes well beyond just racing. Imagining a world of autonomous vehicles it's not far fetched to believe that a small 2 wheeled vehicle could be used to simply deliver packages, pick up passengers, or even equip a sensor system into motorcycles to help aid humans to avoid crashes. Much like the autopilot system found on in cars like Tesla's electric cars.
Racers around the world can sleep safely at night for now...