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Is there an autonomous motorcycle in our future?

Earlier this summer we wrote a couple of items about self-driving vehicles. One featured the fact that Daimler is now licensed to test a nearly autonomous 18-wheeler truck. The one before that was focused on the efforts being made to develop fully independent, driverless cars.

The question we posed in each instance was what implications there might be regarding liability with these vehicles. We feel it's a fair issue to raise because you can be sure that even if humans aren't at the wheel, motor vehicle accidents will occur and people will suffer injury.

The conclusion offered in those blogs is that the issue of liability is likely to shift from one of personal accountability to manufacturer accountability. Instead of seeking compensation for driver negligence, legal observers say suits will claim negligence due to defective product.

We don't know for sure how that issue will play out or how long it might take for the age of truly autonomous vehicles to arrive. But the discussions about cars and trucks did make us wonder whether the same technology could possibly apply to motorcycles. And rather to our surprise, we find that it can and has been.

Enter Ghostrider

Ghostrider is a 90-cc motorcycle that drives itself. It first appeared on the scene in 2005 as an entry in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency autonomous-driving challenge of that year. No other two-wheeled vehicle was in the running.

Ghostrider beat a lot of other entries, but didn't get past the semifinal round. Eventually, the company that produced the vehicle, 510, got bought up by Google and the team that worked on Ghostrider started working on Google's autonomous car-related projects.

So, while Ghostrider may not be remembered, it remains in the minds of the engineers who originally built it. And it seems safe to say that at some point the autonomous motorcycle will be a reality; perhaps around the same time as those autonomous cars and trucks.

Source: IEEE Spectrum, "The Unknown Start-up That Built Google’s First Self-Driving Car," Mark Harris, accessed Aug. 21, 2015

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