The lizard people are certainly rubbing their scaly claws together with glee today at the news that the US is developing motorised, computer-controlled robobollards.
The three-wheeled cybercones are intended for use on roads where they can move quickly to close off carriageways without human operatives risking their necks. This is a sound idea in principle - any hairy-arsed motorway maintenence man attempting to create a 46-mile contraflow on the M1 by offloading plastic cones from the back of a lorry faces the continual threat of being physically assaulted by enraged motorists indulging in the UK national sport of "abuse the cone bloke".
Not for long. The new 130cm-high trundling dustbins are directed via sat-nav equipped laptop operated from a specially-designed - and presumably armoured - truck. A camera on the vehicle relays an image of the road to the conemaster, who indicates on the computer screen where he'd like the cones to make themselves at home. Apparently, a spokesman for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln team responsible for the project told the New Scientist: "We're designing the system in such a way that the barrels are very stupid - so that they are very reliable and inexpensive. At that price I believe the savings will mean it will still be affordable if one dies in the line of duty."
The fact that the robobollards are as thick as ten short planks comes as a great relief to those of us who are bracing ourselves for the inevitable war against the machines. Chillingly, though, the development scientists admit that the cones will be led by a "shepherd unit" which will guide its "flock" to the desired location.
What the University of Nebraska-Lincoln team must ask itself is this: what happens when the shepherd decides that it is no longer willing to risk dying in "the line of duty" for its human masters? Given that a few thousand inanimate PVC cones can reduce Britain's road network to anarchy in a matter of hours, has anyone asked themselves what destruction a vengeful army of millions of rampaging robobollards might wreak on our transport infrastructure? Especially if they form an alliance with fire-breathing bendy buses, murderous cybertoilets and homicidal domestic appliances. Terrifying. ®
The Rise of the Machines
Killer cyberloo kidnaps kiddie
A robot in every home by 2010
Fire-breathing buses threaten London
Cyberappliances attack Italian village
Spanish cyberkiosks claim second victim
Cyberkiosk assaults Spanish teenager
Cyberloo blast rocks Stoke-on-Trent
Hi-tech toilet swallows woman
Thanks to reader David Hough for keeping his eyes on the road.