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Riderless Scooter is the Stuff of Old-Man Dystopian Nightmares

Modified BMW C1 designed to help autonomous cars learn how to interact with two wheelers.

Are you one of those motorcyclists who fears self-driving cars? Welcome to your hell: a self-riding motorcycle.

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Although, to be fair, the point of this riderless BMW C1 is to help autonomous cars learn how to avoid those of us on two wheels. The vehicle was designed by Wiltshire, England-based AB Dynamics with the aim of providing a test dummy that car developers could teach their vehicles to avoid.

Motorcycles and their ilk have proven a little tricky to deal with for self-driving vehicles because we’re, you know, not cars. But providing real-world opportunities for the cars to interact with is equally tricky because it would normally involve putting an actual motorcyclist at risk.

For those of you playing along outside of Europe, the BMW C1 was a short-lived enclosed scooter that was sold from 2000 to 2002. I’ve seen one or two in person, but by and large the idea didn’t take off the way BMW thought it would. The developers at AB Dynamics chose the vehicle because it has an automatic transmission and the presence of a roof made it easier to attach sensors.

“A riderless motorcycle allows more comprehensive testing of autonomous or advanced driver assistance system-equipped vehicles, without risking injury to a real rider,” AB Dynamics Senior Systems Engineer Richard Simpson told the UK’s MCN. “It also permits greater accuracy, repeatability and consistency between tests than any human rider could achieve.”

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AB Dynamics says it is developing riderless versions of more powerful motorcycles, which will allow autonomous car developers an even greater understanding of how motorcyclists are likely to behave, though I can’t help wondering if there might be a market in the development of autonomous C1s. One can imagine fleets of these things ferrying folks around certain hyper-congested cities.

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Motorcycling has a fairly large contingent of old and busted dudes, however, who seem to lie awake at night shuddering in fear of a world where people don’t have to drive. I reckon they’d initiate the overthrow of a government before allowing self-riding two-wheelers to hit the streets.