Damon Motorcycles unveiled its new electric motorcycle today at CES in Las Vegas, calling it “the world’s smartest, safest and most powerful electric motorcycle.”
My first thought: it can’t be both the most powerful and the safest.
Then I kept reading.
And I started believing it might be possible.
First off: the power. The Damon Hypersport has “over 200” horsepower, which is a lot for a motorcycle. But even more impressively, it delivers 200nm of torque at zero RPMs … the classic electric vehicle advantage. (Although how RPM means something in an electric motor is a mystery to me.) Thanks to that power, the bike has a top speed of 200 miles/hour.
Which, by the way, doesn’t sound very safe.
But the safety features are impressive.
As you’d expect in a motorcycle, they’re not about crumple zones or air bags.
Instead, they’re about intelligence. Specifically, predictive intelligence: what’s around me, where is it going and what do I need to avoid? The Hypersport will track the speed, direction and acceleration of up to 64 moving objects around the bike, Damon says.
Damon calls it the “CoPilot 360º advanced warning system.” CoPilot 360 uses cameras, radar and “other sensors” to know what’s around and alert riders to threats, the company says.
“We spent the last three years developing an AI-powered, fully connected, e-motorcycle platform that incorporates CoPilot, our proprietary 360º warning system … Damon motorcycles will be the safest, most advanced electric motorcycles on the market.”
– Jay Giraud, co-founder and CEO, Damon Motorcycles
That’s not just about what’s ahead of you. The system “looks around corners,” although I’m sure it’s not bending any laws of physics, and keeps an “eye” on the rear to see what might be coming from behind.
And, it will learn your driving habits and adjust accordingly, using onboard artificial intelligence.
“We prioritized data-driven thinking at the epicenter of the company, employing radical innovations in sensor fusion, robotics and AI,” Dom Kwong, the co-founder and CTO of Damon Motorcycles, said in a statement. “This level of deep learning and connectivity are unprecedented, ensuring each rider a smarter, safer and connected ride; not only for individuals but for entire communities, with the goal to reduce incidents worldwide.”
To connect riders and power the bike’s AI and other advanced features, it includes 4G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Of course, there are two big questions:
One: will riders actually be safer with warnings about oncoming objects, or will they prioritize what they see on the screen versus watching the road? Will a flood of alerts distract them or make them safer?
And secondly: with software, the devil’s in the details. Few transportation companies that aren’t named Tesla do it well. Will this startup be able to ship these advanced technologies in a usable, friendly and safe way?
Damon says yes, citing the foundation of their software:
“By building it on BlackBerry’s best-in-class technology that is safety certified, Damon motorcycles will be the safest, most advanced electric motorcycles on the market,” says CEO Giraud.
That’s BlackBerry QNX, which is built by the former mobile giant, now re-focused on software solutions.
Ultimately, we’ll know when the bike ships.
The Hypersport is available for pre-order now on the Damon website. Pricing begins at $24,995 before any applicable EV tax credits.
And the range? 200 miles on the highway, 300 miles in the city, according to the company.
2019 was a big year for the nascent electric motorcycle niche, and it looks like 2020 is going to start with another shock to the system with Vancouver B.C.-based Damon Motorcycles announcing some eye-opening performance numbers and cutting-edge safety tech for their upcoming machine, called the Hypersport. A prototype Hypersport and specifications were revealed Tuesday morning at the 2020 CES electronics expo in Las Vegas.
Damon claims the Hypersport will be be capable of some fairly hyper numbers, including 200 horsepower, a 200 mile-an-hour top speed, and 200 miles of highway range, as well as 300 miles of range in urban riding. Additionally, the Hypersport will be bristling with technology heretofore unseen on most any motorcycle, including on-the-fly adjustable ergonomics and a car-like rider safety system.
Damon had previously sent out emails ahead of the CES reveal teasing the fact that “200” was their “magic number,” so while it might have been easy to deduce those figures, they still stand out against the specs of competing bikes, which often struggle to achieve half of those performance figures.
A run of 25 premium high-spec bikes with a price of $40,000 will be the focus of an initial Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, while a more mass-market Hypersport will come in at $24,995. The crowdfunding campaign will complement additional financial backing from Round 13 Capital, Techstars, Fontinalis, Extreme Venture Partners and Pallasite Ventures.
Ahead of CES, Damon CEO Jay Jiraud told Forbes.com the Hypersport will feature their exclusive on-the-fly adjustable ergonomics package, called Shift, and an extensive rider awareness/safety system they call CoPilot. The Shift ergo system will be able to change things like seat height, handlebar height and footpeg location, changing the riding position from a tucked-in sport posture to a more standard-style sit-up arrangement for more comfortable city riding. The bike itself has the form of a sleek sports machine. And while a specific torque figure was not released, Jiraud told Forbes.com the Hypersport will make a “s**tload of torque.” Some of the features can be seen in this video from Damon:
Forbes.com was the first publication to take Damon’s two test bikes for rides this past summer, including the shape-shifting Hypersport prototype and another test machine outfitted with an array of cameras, sensors and electronics designed to give riders a digital heads up on what’s happening around them via a sensor package not unlike what many cars now feature.
Jiraud explained that his vision is to give Hypersport riders more comfort, range and utility from the bike, while also introducing pre-collision safety features that, as of now, have been largely missing from motorcycles while they have gotten ever more sophisticated in cars.
However, the CoPilot system will differ from the automotive systems in that it won’t have the ability to take over operation of the motorcycle; it only gives warning cues about possible dangers around the rider. The reason for the non-intervention is that a motorcycle is an inherently unstable platform, unlike a car, and unexpectedly taking control of the bike away from the rider in any way could result in a crash. Instead, the CoPilot system uses video screens, a rear-facing camera, multiple radar units and position sensors, small LED lights and handlebar vibrations to let the rider know what is happening around the motorcycle. Again, CoPilot does not activate the brakes or affect steering, although Jiraud did not rule out those features in some iteration much farther down the line as A.I. systems, vehicle interconnectivity and other technologies improve.
During a test ride of the system several months ago, I found the tech to be innovative and effective. While it does add some input to the rider while in operation, I found that even after a few miles, it became second nature to see, feel and understand the warning system’s cues.
Likewise, riding the sleek electric bike with the adjustable ergos was also interesting. While some modern bikes allow owners to tailor things like seat height, handlebar rise and footpeg placement, those adjustments typically have to be made with tools while the bike is stopped, and once made, riders are essentially stuck with them until they can be changed again with tools.
Damon’s Shift system works more like your car’s interior. Using a bar-mounted controller, the seat can rise and fall, the bars can move up and down and the footpegs will lift or lower. While the test bike had only two positions for the ergos, Jiraud said future versions would be more adjustable for a true custom fit. Best of all, the Shift system is adjustable while riding.
BlackBerry On Board
Damon CEO Jay Giraud has made some key moves to bring his vision of an electric bike with all the elements of the two test bikes rolled into one battery-powered package. A key development in the quest to get the data-hungry CoPilot system up to par performance-wise was a partnership with BlackBerry and implementation of the BlackBerry QNX suite to power and talk to the numerous sensors, radars and other tech involved in CoPilot. There will also be 4G cellular connectivity.
Once famous for their cellphones, BlackBerry has largely transitioned to a company that makes control systems that work behind the curtain in numerous data systems, with a focus on cars and medical equipment. The QNX system has been installed in over 150 million vehicles and is used by almost all top automakers worldwide, so it’s quite a coup for Damon to have them dip into the electric motorcycle world at this early stage.
Clearly, this is not Jay Jiraud’s first tech rodeo. While the Damon team was spooling up the Hypersport, Jiraud also added a key player in Derek Dorresteyn, from now-defunct but long-time electric motorcycle maker Alta Motors. Dorresteyn signed on as COO at Damon, which will need his expertise to tease out the promised performance figures for the Hypersport models. Even though both are legacy technologies, batteries and electric motors are two parts of a rapidly developing tech frontier that is seeing huge investments by both corporate and even state-sponsored players.
Jiraud told Forbes.com that Dorresteyn was in the midst of working on a “completely new” electric superbike powertrain system at Alta when the company closed up shop, and he brings a wealth of expertise to Damon. Among the bike’s tech features Jiraud talked about with Forbes ahead of CES was a 700-plus volt, liquid-cooled 20kWh battery pack for the Hypersport, which would be quite large for a motorcycle, but Jiraud says the Hypersports’ architecture can handle the battery pack and that the battery will not be the typical rectangular lump found in many current electric bikes. For comparison, the largest battery available on the class-leading Zero SR-F is just over 16kWh (the standard battery is 14.4kWh), with the bike tipping the scales at a tick over 500 pounds. Meanwhile, the Harley-Davidson LiveWire uses a 15.5kWh pack. Jiraud says he is planning on keeping the weight of the Hypersport under 500 pounds through design and weight-saving measures.
A Challenging Future
The transition of the motorcycle industry from gas to electric has lagged (with some exceptions) behind that of cars due to the challenges of design as well as the space and weight-sensitive platform a motorcycle presents, but battery and motor advances in the bike industry can also represent opportunities to the EV industry as a whole. With the addition of Dorresteyn from Alta, Blackberry’s QNX handling the tech and a clutch of investors, Damon may be in position to lead in terms of range, safety and power once the Hypersport arrives. But things can change fast in the EV world, so stay tuned.
The Damon Hypersport prototype bike can be seen at BlackBerry’s booth at CES 2020. Deliveries are slated for 2021.
– Damon to unveil flagship motorcycle, the ‘Hypersport Pro at CES 2020 in BlackBerry Limited’s (NYSE: BB; TSX: BB) booth #7515, North Hall.
– #FutureOfMotorcycling Interactive Experience will be open to all CES attendees in the BlackBerry booth from January 7 – 10, 2020
VANCOUVER, British Columbia and WATERLOO, Ontario, Jan. 3, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Damon Motorcycles announced today that its CoPilot™ advanced warning system will be powered by BlackBerry QNX technology across its entire line-up of advanced electric motorcycles.
As part of the agreement, Damon has licensed BlackBerry QNX technology, including its industry-leading real-time operating system to serve as the safe and secure foundation for the Damon CoPilot warning system on its new flagship electric motorcycle.
Damon will unveil this disruptive, limited edition superbike, the Hypersport Pro™, and open reservations to the public online and at CES at 10:00am PST, January 7th. In BlackBerry’s booth, attendees will also be able to experience Damon’s next generation motorcycle first-hand in the #FutureOfMotorcycling Interactive Experience, a rideable, leaning stationary motorcycle that uses virtual reality to showcase the motorcycle’s unique features on the show floor.These features include its powerful all-electric performance, its CoPilot advanced warning system, and Shift™, its patented rider ergonomics that lets riders electronically adjust the Hypersport’s riding position while in motion. CoPilot uses radar, cameras and non-visual sensors to track the speed, direction and velocity of moving objects around the motorcycle. Attendees can book a time slot to experience it at CES by visiting damonmotorcycles.com/VR.
“We’re on a mission to unleash the full potential of personal mobility for the world’s commuters,” said Jay Giraud, Chief Executive Officer of Damon Motorcycles. “To address this, we spent the last three years developing an AI-powered, fully connected, e-motorcycle platform that incorporates CoPilot, our proprietary 360º warning system. By building it on BlackBerry’s best-in-class technology that is safety certified, Damon motorcycles will be the safest, most advanced electric motorcycle in the market.”
“With its advanced collision warning system, Damon’s new Hypersport Pro is a game-changing model for the motorcycle industry,” said Grant Courville, VP, Product Management and Strategy, BlackBerry QNX. “We’re absolutely thrilled to have them in our booth and look forward to showing off the highly-secure software that delivers enhanced situational awareness and increased peace of mind for riders. BlackBerry QNX is leading the way in next-generation mobility systems by providing a safe and secure platform for connected vehicles and beyond and we’re proud to work with Damon on this exciting advancement.”
BlackBerry QNX is a leader in delivering trusted embedded operating systems and development tools to companies for which failure is not an option. Committed to the highest safety, reliability and security standards, BlackBerry QNX has developed a portfolio of software and services with a proven record of helping developers deliver complex and connected next generation products. BlackBerry QNX technology is trusted in over 150 million vehicles and millions of embedded systems, including medical, industrial automation, robotics, energy, defense and aerospace applications. For more information on BlackBerry QNX, please visit blackberry.qnx.com.
With performance specs to be released at CES 2020, Damon’s industry-leading advanced prototypes are set to hit the roads in mid-2020 to the world’s largest mobility segment well overdue for a safer, smarter, zero emission solution. For more information on Damon Motorcycles, please visit damonmotorcycles.com.