What do you get if you cross the Audi RSQ concept car from I, robot with a Segway and a motorcycle? You get this, the Spherical Drive System prototype motorcycle which was developed by a team of 14 students at San Jose State University.
Clearly the most unusual aspect of the prototype are the large spherical wheels. These are computer controlled to maintain balance, just like the wheels on a Segway – except with another axis to consider. Having spherical wheels allows the bike to move in any direction instantaneously. It also means the bike has to carry onboard a rather clever computer to make sure the thing stays upright.
The Spherical Drive System (SDS) motorcycle is self-balancing, and even when stationary will keep both the bike and rider shiny side up. Unlike the Segway however, the Spherical Drive System motorcycle doesn’t rely on a mechanical gyro. Instead it uses data from MEMS gyroscopic sensor technology and an onboard accelerometer to electronically control balance.
The Spherical Drive System motorcycle is ridden in a manner similar to a conventional motorcycle. The rider uses both the handlebars and their body position to control direction, while a throttle provides thrust. But in addition the bike also features a set of joysticks that allow for additional maneuvers like moving sideways, reversing or rotating on the spot.
Powering the Spherical Drive System motorcycle is an electric drivetrain which uses two motors per wheel to get the omnidirectional control necessary for movement and balance. Theoretically its designers say the bike should be capable of around 60 mph (100 km/h) when finished.
The Spherical Drive System motorcycle is built around a stainless steel frame featuring Fox Racing suspension. Both carbon fiber and fiberglass have been used to construct the wheels which have been coated in rubber to provide traction.
Several companies have provided funding for the project to the tune of around $70,000. At the moment the bike is still in development. However updates on the construction seem to have ended in 2012. An email to the university regarding the status of the Spherical Drive System motorcycle is awaiting reply.