Honda’s Riding Assist gives motorcycles balance tricks from its Asimo bot

Honda’s new Riding Assist motorcycle model isn’t a shipping product yet, but it is an impressive technical demo. The concept at CES showed how it can help motorcycles maintain balance while traveling at low speed, something particularly tricky for even experienced drivers.

Speeds between 2 and 3 mph actually prove among the most challenging in terms of making sure a motorcycle stays upright, and Honda’s leveraging lessons learned from its development of Asimo the robot and its UNI-CUB rideable scooter-like transport to make sure bikes can manage balancing themselves, or assist human riders in keeping them level at those low speeds.

Riding Assist converts the motorcycle’s front fork from a standard geometry position to one more aggressively angled, which you might recognize as something closer to the geometry of a cruiser motorcycle designed for more leisurely speeds. The adjusted angle helps increase stability, and is managed by a dedicated motor attached to the front wheel.

Honda showed me Ride Assist working with a motorcycle travelling under its own speed: there were two pegs on either side to make sure it could rest when the system wasn’t engaged, but it succeeded in meandering out under its own power without falling over one way or the other, even when the handlebars angled in either direction.

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Honda Riding Assist engineer Makoto Araki told me that the technology is currently not set for any specific release timeline, but it could help avoid a lot of injuries that happen to motorcyclists when you might not expect them. Others have already demonstrated advanced stabilization assist systems for high-speed biking, but this is an oft-overlooked area that is nonetheless ripe for potential improvement.

It’s also a great example of how Honda’s work in robotics can be leveraged across its product areas, for improvements that might affect a broader segment of its customer base more immediately. Personal robots like Asimo are still probably at least a decade away from any kind of real consumer pick-up or availability, but nested tech created through their development can have a material impact much sooner.