The talk at the Tokyo Motor Show for cars was all about autonomy – cars that drive themselves and make decisions for you, so you can be safer on the road. Toyota and Honda both showed off futuristic four-wheelers that don’t need steering wheels and which have deep-learning computers inside them to find out as much as possible about you. They’ll tailor the drive to exactly how you like it: the kind of roads you prefer, the setup of the vehicle, even chat with you on the go about how your sports team is doing.
Over at the motorcycle stands in Hall 7, Yamaha had its Motoroid machine up on the stage. It’s an all-electric motorcycle that is supposed to “recognize and interact with its owner”, whatever that means, to provide a personalized ride experience. It looked bloody uncomfortable. Next to it, Motobot was posed on a Yamaha YZF-R1M. We’ve seen Motorbot before, and Yamaha released a video that shows the bike-riding robot racing after Valentino Rossi on a track, supposedly a bit quicker every time.
Is this really heralding a better future? Apparently, it’s all about safety – at least, that’s what Honda told us when its self-balancing motorcycle rode itself onto the stage here, much like BMW’s Next 100 concept motorcycle last year in Los Angeles. We’re all for safer riding, but we ride motorcycles for a different reason than why we drive cars. Fundamentally, cars are transport that can also be fun; motorcycles are fun that can also be transport. Let’s get our priorities straight here.
Kawasaki seemed to have the right idea. It’s developing its own futuristic AI system that offers suggestions and warnings to the rider during travel, but that wasn’t even mentioned at the show. Instead, its stage was set for the gorgeous new Z900 RS retro bike that even Zac appreciates. There were several versions of the RS on display in different colours and trims and each one nailed the look and the reasons we ride.
Motorcycling is a passion. It’s potentially dangerous and it can be cold and wet if the weather catches you out, but ultimately it’s about the freedom to get away from everyday stress. It’s wind on your chest and the feel of the road against your tires and the exhilaration of the lean. For some, it’s the camaraderie and for others, it’s the solitude, but at its core, it’s never about computerization. Let the silicon chips take care of the invisible stuff, like traction control and better braking, but leave the pleasure of the ride itself to the rider.
Fuddy-duddy? Maybe. But I know what I like, and I don’t need anyone, or any computer, to tell me what it is. Do what you will with cars, but leave our motorcycles alone.