Tech companies file a lot of patents. It’s sort of their thing, and it’s not always obvious what, exactly, a newly patented technology is ultimately being prepared for. That’s why it shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise to see that Facebook has recently filed a patent application for what appears to be an autonomous, self-balancing, electric motorcycle. And yet– even knowing all that– I still can’t believe it.
Sure, this new robot deal ticks all the trendy, post-singularity tech boxes a company might want to tick– but it’s not really clear why a social media company Facebook (which also owns Instagram) would be pursuing something like this. My guess would be that it’s some sort of self-balancing camera system that will, eventually, team up with Oculus, another Facebook property. I’m picturing a “you lean, it leans” kind of thing with real-time visual and haptic feedback for … a motorcycle game? A killer military robot? Something along those lines, you know?
The “bike” itself looks like it’s got two wheel steering provided by electric motors pulling on belts, with stop/hold functions handled by disc brakes. Motors closer to the hubs look like they provide forward propulsion, and the whole drive unit seems integrated into the suspension.
You can check out the full PDF of Facebook’s patent filing by clicking here. There’s lots of interesting reading there (if you’re interested in stuff like this), so take some time to absorb it, then let us know what you think this whole autonomous electric motorcycle technology is really being developed for in the comments section at the bottom of the page. NOTE: extra points will be awarded for tin-hat insanity.
Facebook Electric Motorcycle Patent Drawings
A robotic motorcycle may include a chassis, driven wheel assemblies, and a control loop stabilizer. The driven wheel assemblies may each include a wheel and a bevel gear. The wheel may be mounted to an axle for rotation about a drive axis and steering about a substantially vertical steering axis. A steer shaft may connect the axle to a steer assembly that controls rotation of the steer shaft about the steering axis to steer the wheel. A drive shaft may be coupled to a drive assembly that controls rotation of the drive shaft about the steering axis. The bevel gear may couple the other end of the drive shaft to the axle so that rotation of the drive shaft about the steering axis controls rotation of the wheel about the drive axis. The control loop stabilizer may determine parameters for the drive and steer assemblies to balance the motorcycle.
As detailed above, the disclosed vehicular platform and self-balancing, robotic motorcycle may provide many advantages. For example, the motorcycle’s power assembly (which may include both driving and steering assemblies) may be located entirely outside the circumference of its wheels, thus protecting the power assembly from forceful impacts as well as environmental conditions that may surround its wheels. Similar benefits may be achieved by disposing the motorcycle’s brake assembly distally from its wheels. The robotic motorcycle disclosed herein may also be configured to allow its wheels to freely rotate 360 degrees about its steering axis without becoming entangled by electrical wires or other components of the drive assembly.