The web-crawling sleuths at Cycle World have dug up an interesting new patent, which suggests Harley-Davidson is working on a self-balancing motorcycle.
There’s no word on exactly where the patent comes from, but there’s plenty of this stuff floating around the Internet these days. Any time an OEM has to file paperwork for some skunk works project, it runs the risk of being uncovered a few weeks later, by some motojourno with a mastery of the patent search system.
So what do we have here? Basically, it’s an electrically-powered gyroscope system, intended to provide balance to a motorcycle at slow speed. It’s enabled by the same sort of electro-trickery that manages traction control, leaning ABS and similar systems.
While the bike is running at normal speeds, the gyroscope is designed to move with the motorcycle, to avoid any sort of handling issues. However, when the bike starts to slow down, the bike’s onboard sensors will lock the gyroscope down, adjusting its angle to fight gravity and keep the motorcycle upright.
It’s all very sci-fi stuff, and wouldn’t have been practical before accelerometer technology became widespread. Is it practical, though?
CW says the gyroscope system is designed to fit inside the OEM Tour Pak topcase, and be entirely self-contained; hook up a few wires, and the system should be ready to go. In theory this would be a quick, easy way to make it easier for riders to handle bigger cruisers, if their skills aren’t up to it for some reason. The question here is, how much would the system weigh—and would Harley-Davidson be better off just figuring out how to remove weight from its bikes, instead of adding more?
Whatever your answer, remember there is no guarantee this tech will come to market anyway. A patent is no guarantee of production.