Japanese motorcycle giant Yamaha created a robot that is learning how to copy a motorsports champion.At the Tokyo Motor Show on Wednesday, the company revealed Motobot, its autonomous motorcycle-riding humanoid robot, which can to ride an unmodified motorcycle.Yamaha wants Motobot to ride faster than 200 km/h (124 mph) on a racetrack, but the company did not disclose the robot’s top speed when announcing its new creation. Mashable has reached out to Yamaha for clarification.SEE ALSO: Yamaha just unveiled a sports car in Tokyo. We’re intrigued.”The task of controlling the complex motions of a motorcycle at high speeds requires a variety of control systems that must function with a high degree of accuracy,” Yamaha said in a statement. Motobot is also part of Yamaha’s research efforts toward better rider safety, it said.In the promotional video above, the robot issues a challenge to Italian world champion Valentino Rossi. As a childhood picture of Rossi comes on screen, the robot, using a digitized boy’s voice, says: “I am improving my skills everyday, but I’m not sure if I can even beat the five-year-old you.”Motobot makes it clear that it’s gaining on Rossi — and the rest of humankind: “I am not human but there has to be something only I am capable of. I am Motobot. I was created to surpass you.”
With new entry-level cars like the CLA and GLA, Mercedes-Benz has been chasing a younger audience, but its targeting of Generation Z — those born after 1995, most of whom can’t yet drive — takes this to a new level. Mercedes is imagining the Vision Tokyo not as a tool for getting around, but rather a “digital, automobile companion.”And it makes sense; these youths are more interested in staying connected and ‘sharing’ than driving. That said, they still have places to go. This is where vehicles like the Vision Tokyo come into play.While self-driving cars are many years away, Mercedes is already imagining the role of a luxury car maker in that world. So, future yuppies, are you excited for your Mercedes “chill-out zone?”
The IDS, like the current Nissan Leaf, is an electric vehicle. That isn’t the interesting part, though. Its two drive modes, Piloted Drive and Manual Drive, are more intriguing.When in Manual Drive mode, the seats face forward, and passengers are bathed in blue light — believed to aid concentration. The driver controls the movement of the vehicle with a steering wheel designed to mimic the reins used in horse riding (odd, I know).Even when the IDS is in Manual Drive, the autonomous systems are still paying attention — both to the road and to how the driver operates the car. If it detects an impending accident, the car can still take evasive action even if it is in Manual Drive. IMAGE: NISSANThe artificial intelligence (AI) system onboard learns how the driver accelerates, brakes, takes turns and so on. This helps the driver feel more at home when the car is in Piloted Mode.
Honda unveiled its first production hydrogen-powered fuel cell sedan, the Clarity Fuel Cell, at the Tokyo Motor Show on Tuesday. Though Honda has dabbled in hydrogen power since the late 1980s, the five-passenger Clarity Fuel Cell sedan is the first hydrogen-powered model that the Japanese carmaker has intended to offer up to the public.SEE ALSO: Construction of $150 million hyperloop test track reportedly beginning in weeks IMAGE: HONDAA quick refresher on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles: The cars transform hydrogen — in a unit called the fuel cell stack — into electricity, which is fed to a lithium-ion battery pack and out to an electric motor that turns the drive wheels. Essentially, think of it as an electric vehicle that can be refilled in three minutes and emits only water vapor out of its tailpipes.The Clarity Fuel Cell represents a leap forward for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs). Honda has managed to shrink the size of the hydrogen fuel cell stack by 33%, down to the size of a V6 gasoline engine. This compact shape allows designers to fit it underneath the hood of the car — a first for FCVs. Until this point fuel cells have been so large that they needed to be packaged elsewhere in the vehicle, like in Toyota’s Mirai, which has its fuel cell stack in the center of the vehicle, cutting into interior space. IMAGE: HONDAWith the fuel cell stack under the hood — like that of a gasoline-powered car — the cabin can be shaped in a standard five-passenger layout with enough room to comfortably seat five adults.When full of hydrogen, the Clarity Fuel Cell can travel 700 km (434 miles) on a single charge, which is around 50 km further than the Toyota Mirai. For those of you figure junkies, Honda boasts the fuel cell stack has a power output of 100 kW while the electric motor that actually drives the wheels has a maximum output of 130 kW. I’d love to tell you how that translates into a 0 to 60 mph time, but Honda hasn’t revealed those figures. IMAGE: HONDAAcceleration aside, Honda has revealed another cool feature of the Clarity Fuel Cell. When plugged into another Honda gizmo called the Power Exporter 9000, the Clarity Fuel Cell can produce enough electricity to power an average home for approximately seven days — perfect during a natural disaster or run of the mill power outage. Granted, Honda likely means an average Japanese house, not an American home. So that number will likely come down a bit when the Power Exporter 9000 comes Stateside.Honda will begin leasing the Clarity Fuel Cell to Japanese municipalities and businesses in March 2016. It will later open sales to the general public, with entry into the U.S. and European markets following that. Right now, the Clarity Fuel Cell is priced at 7.66 million yen or $62,807. Whether it’ll hold that price when offered in America is unclear.
Roush, a boutique automotive supplier based in Michigan, assembled the car’s exterior. LG Chemical, a subsidiary of the Korean manufacturer, made the batteries. A handful of German specialists — Continental, Bosch, Frimo and ZFLS — were behind components like powertrain, brakes and steering wheels.These companies are not new to the automotive world. Continental and Bosch are multibillion-dollar businesses, supplying traditional and autonomous parts to a range of car companies. When it comes to self-driving, the German companies echo the carmakers: Autonomy is a process, starting with driver assistance features — like automatic lane braking and parking — and, as consumers adapt, progressing to full self-driving.Sales of Bosch’s Mobility Solutions unit, which sells smart-car features, grew at twice the industry pace last year, according to the company. (A month after Google announced its partners, Bosch acquired ZFLS.) By 2017, Continental projects that it will net $1.3 billion in revenue from systems that build autonomy into brakes, acceleration and steering. Enno Pigge, a Continental rep, said the company is providing some parts to Tesla, but would not say which ones. Frimo and Roush, Google’s other partners, declined to comment.Another force in the field is Magna International, a Canadian manufacturer. It’s a supplier, selling a range of semi-autonomous features to carmakers, but it also runs a vehicle-assembly subsidiary. That gives it an edge. Morgan Stanley wrote that Magna could do what “Foxconn does today for Apple,” for Google, Uber and the growing list of tech companies looking to build self-driving cars. Swamy Kotagiri, Magna’s chief technology officer, deflected the moniker, but said the company sees itself in a good market position. “The one differentiating factor is the breadth of automotive expertise,” he said. “We look at it more as a holistic view.”The EyesMore critical than having smart components inside, a self-driving car needs to see. There’s some dispute about how to do it best. The best option may be Lidar, a remote sensing technology that uses lasers to map out surroundings — in addition to cars, the tech is deployed in agriculture, geology and military defense. But Lidar is not cheap.VelodyneThe Velodyne “Puck” LidarVelodyne, a 32-year-old company that started in subwoofer technology, branched out into Lidar a decade ago and has become a market leader. It builds three different products: A powerful $80,000 sensor (used by some trucking companies); a $32,000 model; and, released last year, its palm-sized “Puck,” which costs $8,000.As autonomous tech spreads in the coming years, the company expects a surge in demand from carmakers for the cheaper two products, said Wolfgang Juchmann, sales director for Velodyne’s Lidar division. Google, which makes its owns Lidar, also buys from Velodyne, shelling out for the priciest model. (Velodyne would not comment on Apple, but its equipment has been spotted on Apple’s mapping vans.)Quanergy, a newcomer building Lidar, claims it will bring down the prize to $100 by 2018.For now, a thriftier alternative to Lidar are high-tech cameras. Mobileye, an Israel-based company with a market cap of around $10 billion, is emerging as the dominant supplier here. More than 90 percent of carmakers have partnered with Mobileye, the company said. Tesla buys its cameras, which are laced with Mobileye’s advanced software and chips. Earlier this month, GM said it was working with Mobileye to test self-driving features on the hybrid Chevy Volt.Mobileye’s full hardware and software package, which includes a 360-degree view around cars, can cost less than $1,000 for car companies, said chief communication officer and SVP Yonah Lloyd. “For the car industry, cost is a major consideration,” he added. Here is its perception system picking out pedestrians:Cameras are not only cheaper, but they often have better resolution, and can see certain elements on the roadways — lane markers, traffic lights — that Lidar misses. A few startups, like Nauto and Cruise, are deploying cameras coupled with smart computer-vision algorithms to retrofit cars with driver-assistance technology that set the stage for full autonomy.The BrainsOnce a car has the parts to drive alone and see, it still needs an obscene amount of processing power. Enter the chipmakers. Some familiar titans from the mobile world, like Qualcomm and Samsung, are moving into the car industry, providing the graphical interfaces behind the advanced vision systems requisite for autonomous driving.The company ahead of the curve, however, is Nvidia, which is primarily known for producing chips behind video games. It has shifted its attention to cars, starting in 2007 when its systems powered the integration of Google Earth inside an Audi. Nvidia said its automotive unit posted 85 percent annual growth in sales for the last fiscal year. Several luxury carmakers use its supercomputers, which can take the reams of data coming from
The rumors and speculation around Apple’s involvement in developing a car continue to rise and subside, just like the ocean’s tide. While there’s been mentions about an Apple car being all-electric, this latest piece of news suggests autonomous driving features. It has been discovered that Apple has hired Jonathan Cohen, persuading him to leave his position at Nvidia as director of deep learning, or artificial intelligence (AI). Recode spotted the change of employer on Cohen’s LinkedIn page.At Nvidia, Cohen was heavily involved in deep learning and its use in the company’s Drive PX technology, which is aimed at the car market with its camera-based autopilot system. Check out the clip below, taken at CES 2015 earlier this year, to see Cohen explaining the tech and how it’s used in autonomous driving.
Nissan is decking out a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle with a bunch of autonomous-drive sensors. The Japanese automaker has dubbed the tech Piloted Drive 1.0 and recently showed it off on test vehicles at Nissan’s Advanced Technology Center near Tokyo, Automotive News says. The vehicle will feature almost 400 sensors that offer 360-degree measurement data between the driver’s car and others. A version of it will be available in Japan by the end of next year.Next year will bring fresh capabilities to the EV that Nissan has been using to test self-driving technology, including the abilities for the car to pass other vehicles, change lanes, and merge onto and off of highways. The program is called Nissan Intelligent Driving and it is currently in use in three Nissan Leafs.Nissan has long proclaimed that it would have a self-driving vehicle on the road by 2020. More recently, though, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has said Nissan’s efforts to meet the 2020 deadline may be hamstrung by government regulations. Nissan has worked with institutions such as MIT, Stanford, Oxford and others to test self-driving capabilities.Still, the subject of tech advancing faster than regulations has gained relevance as automakers like Tesla Motors have upped their cars’ self-driving abilities. Released earlier this month under Tesla’s software 7.0 suite, Tesla has added self-driving capabilities related to parking, side-collision warning, lane-changing and automatic emergency steering. Tesla Motors chief Elon Musk has said a fully-autonomous vehicle may be on the road by 2018, beating Ghosn’s goal by a couple of years.