The autonomous automobile, or autonomous vehicle (AV), is slowly but steadily creeping into reality, with Honda releasing the first Level 3 AV available to the public in 2021. With only 100 available to select customers in Japan alone, the Honda Legend will enable drivers 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 in the same direction: allowing the motorcycle to at least partially take control of the steering functions.
The drawings in Honda’s patent application show a fairly standard GoldWing which is fitted with a servo setup that can operate the steering via Heim rods and joints. Using information gleaned from the various sensors on the motorcycle, such as the inertial measurement unit (IMU) and wheel speed sensors, the system could in theory function as a power steering assist (similar to the one of Honda’s previous patent filings), but also has the ability to apply steering inputs independently. The system incorporates sensors to measure steering angle and force, adding more useful data that computers can use to decide what steering actions to take.
Fully developed, a computer-controlled steering system could prevent or control speed oscillations, keep the bike upright in situations where the wheels are slipping, or take full control of steering functions.
Motorcycle technology has, like it or not, kept pace with automotive trends quite closely, adopting fuel injection, ABS, traction control and radar cruise control, once this progress has become widespread in the automotive market. While self-driving cars seem close to being a reality in the market, how long will it be before the motorcycle does the same? As the first automaker to achieve 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 closer together.