BMW's self-balancing motorcycle

Bike to the future with BMW’s self-balancing motorcycle

Words: Eddy Lawrence
Illustration: HERI IRAWAN

Forget self-driving cars. BMW wants you to fast forward on a self-balancing motorcycle
Edgar Heinrich, 58
Edgar Heinrich, 58

The ideas man

Here’s a man who knows a few things about bikes. Director of Design at BMW’s motorcycle division, Motorrad, Edgar Heinrich headed up the 2009 design of the S 1000 RR superbike, and now, for BMW’s centenary, his team has reinvented the motorcycle entirely.

The Vision Next 100 is an electric, self-stabilising steed that you can’t crash, topple or fall from. “In safety, you’ll fly over the tarmac, still feel the wind, the vibration, the acceleration, the leaning angles,” promises Heinrich. “These archaic things are why motorbike riding will have an important role in the future.”


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THE RED BULLETIN: How does one go about reinventing the motorcycle?

EDGAR HEINRICH: “Our thinking was, in 30 years everything is connected, controlled by artificial intelligence – machines will take over a lot of things we do, so where do I get my genuine, analogue experience? We decided it should be like riding a horse. I shouldn’t feel restricted, I don’t want to wear a helmet or have all these gauges. Most intriguing is the idea of sitting on the bike in my T-shirt and jeans and just going for it.”

Gyroscopic sensors and an active assistance system keep the bike from falling, and can expand the rider’s capabilities

© youtube // eGear TV

How does that visor work?

It’s what we call flock intelligence [with collective behaviour, like a flock of birds] – you have interaction between the rider, the vehicle, the cloud and gear that deals with this flood of information and allows you to concentrate on riding. I only need information when required. And not just from the visor – for example, my sleeve vibrates when I have to make a right turn.

Can this work safely, especially at high speeds? 

It’s the case already. Ride a S 1000 RR on the track and the brain – the electronic suspension set-up, leaning-angle indication – it is not just giving you confidence, but improving fun. The new R 1200 GS has off-road slip control. On gravel, you can accelerate and drift within the corner, but it’s controllable. It lets me explore my emotions and the analogue experience, because I know that in the background this artificial knowledge will make me safe.

A smart visor links to the bike, relaying data. Look up to make a rear-view mirror appear; look down for directions, speed or banking angle

The bike is currently a concept. How close is it to reality?

The technology is not so outrageous. A gyro is standard nowadays, other things like cloud intelligence are also around the corner. The FlexFrame – the pneumatic of fluid muscle – is already used in other machines, so could be applied to a motorbike frame. Some of the tech is here, some is around the corner, some is around two corners. Nothing is from Mars.

Rather than handlebars turning the front forks, the entire frame flexes into the turn. It’s the closest you’ll ever get to riding a dragon

It certainly looks like it comes from science fiction…

Some people say it looks like the Tron bike, but we didn’t want to do something weird. It was about having a relationship with our history. It’s undeniably a BMW. You probably can’t say why, but you can recognise it. The R32 [BMW’s first bike from 1923] was very simplistic compared to other bikes from the era. This has the typical, simplistic frame. It also had to have the design semantics of a boxer engine. That was a given.

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02 2017 The Red Bulletin

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