Other than a few variants on tracks or some future designs that fly, motorcycles all have wheels and we know what wheels look like, some sort of disc rotating either forward of backward, right? Well, maybe not, because this group of students from Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering at San Jose State University looked at a few sci-fi vehicles and thought, "Hey, why not balls?" Why not, indeed? They've designed and begun building a senior project to demonstrate the feasibility of something most of us would not even consider.
The spherical wheels are constructed of carbon fiber and fiberglass with an industrial rubber coating and are friction driven by three electric motors mounted slightly off center on top of the ball. Because of the three motor arrangement, the balls can rotate or spin in any direction which makes for a rather unstable platform on which to base a motorcycle, but the students plan to address this issue with a computer control system using a gyro-accelerometer combination to determine the necessary movements needed to maintain balance and move in the proper direction.
As a senior project, this is extremely interesting and makes a fine showcase for the students' abilities, but as a practical matter, it seems they will have to overcome a great many problems which, in the end, may lead to a motorcycle with no real advantage over conventional wheels.
I'll be very interested in seeing the end result of their work and I give them very high marks for out of the box thinking.
Thanks for the tip, Mark!