Daniel Kim decided to reinvent the motorcycle eight years ago, soon after a car nearly crushed him. He was welding a Land Rover sport-utility vehicle, laying on a mechanic’s sled under its 500-pound chassis, when the chassis fell off its frame stands. Kim stuck his arm up as the chassis fell, and on contact the force pushed him and the rolling sled out from beneath the car. The near-death experience gave Kim his fill of big machines, he says: “I thought, does the world need another SUV? No.” A lifelong bike aficionado, he set out to create one as safe as a car.
Kim’s company, San Francisco-based Lit Motors, has developed a working prototype of a self-balancing motorcycle. Kim says the goal is for it to remain upright when struck by a Ford F-150 truck traveling at 35 miles per hour. Lit’s bike uses two stabilizing gyroscopes, 40-pound disks 12 inches in diameter. They spin in opposite directions at up to 12,000 revolutions per minute to counter tipping forces, guided by seven sensors. While other inventors have tested gyro-stabilized vehicles with limited success, they typically used only one spinning disk. Kim, 33, says his system is more resilient: “We can defy gravity.”