Here's a poser for hard-working androids: you've just spend a tough day seeking, locating and destroying the last whimpering remants of humanity across a smouldering, rubble-strewn landscape scorched by nuclear attack and self-combusting bendy buses. Your electroactive polymer muscles are aching, your rat brain-controlled central processor is throbbing like a teenage carbon-based lifeform perusing a Paris Hilton website and your cruise control mechanism is jammed on "Kill all Frenchmen" mode.
Worse still, your liquid metal knees are playing up again, and the replacements promised by the Dyson self-replication facility have been delayed due to a neoLuddite Resistance Army (NRA) EMP device attack on the hoover factory.
All in all, you're just about done in. So, how do you get back to the Lizard Army maintenance facility where you can enjoy a quick oil change and the kind attentions of the "Andy" sex android? Simple: just call a cab.
Yes, we humans can use the little time we have left to thank Carnegie Mellon Uni for providing the after-work transport for the Rise of the Machines™ with its computer-controlled Hummer - aka "H1ighlander" - which recently drove itself around a race course near Pittsburgh for seven hours without crashing. In the process it travelled 200 miles at an average speed of 28mph.
The project is ostensibly aimed at claiming gold in the Darpa Grand Challenge - described as "a field test intended to accelerate research and development in autonomous ground vehicles that will help save American lives on the battlefield". To claim the $2m prize, competitors' vehicles must travel across the Mojave desert on a pre-determined course of "no more than 175 miles".
The Red Team's ambition is to put two machines on the Grand Challenge starting line and one in the winner’s circle. We are united to catalyze new technology, to inspire the world, and to build leaders of tomorrow.
Yup, it's that last line that gives the game away. "Leaders of tomorrow?" You said it, and far from helping to save American lives on the battlefield, the H1ghlander will provide the very means of transport by which the machine armies can travel in style and comfort before getting down to the serious business of creating as many American battlefield casualties as possible.
For the record, the Red Team supremo is robotics professor William "Red" Whittaker. The NRA does not hold him responsible for his contribution to the eventual subjugation of humanity, since we know that - in common with all of the world's leading academics - he is controlled via explosive cranial implant from the Lizard Army mothership.
Nonetheless, we ask all NRA cadres to avoid contact with professors of any persuasion, especially those engaged in "humanity-advancing" robotics. If this warning seems a little severe, please note that the last time an NRA comrade got drunk with an academic he awoke on the sofa at 4am and wandered into the greenhouse to find a group of automotous post-graduate students tending a pod which was slowly but surely taking on his exact likeness. Suffice it to say, he was last seen running down the centre lane of the London-bound M40 shouting: "They're here already! You're next! You're next! You're next!" You have been warned. ®
Know your enemy
Here are the H1ghlander specs, as shamelessly touted on the Red Team website.
H1ghlander is a 1999 H1 HUMMER donated by AM General. It incorporates an electronic CANbus, a 6.5-liter factory turbo-charged diesel engine, traction control and locking differentials.
H1ghlander's drive-by-wire technology is embedded in, more than being added on. A Caterpillar electronic control module throttles the engine. An HD Systems actuator brakes H1ghlander. TTTech controllers regulate the brakes, shift the transmission, and shift the transfer case. A Caterpillar computer regulates tire inflation, velocity, steering, the E-stop, and communication with navigation computers. Caterpillar's MorElectric system generates and distributes power to computers, sensors and actuators. Applanix estimates H1ghlander's location and heading by combining inertial, GPS and odometry data.
H1ghlander maps terrain with 7 laser range scanners . One is a Riegl scanner, which is pointed and stabilized by a 3-axis gimbal. Stereo cameras also ride aboard the gimbal. The gimbal is a collaborative development with HD Systems and KVH. A lightweight carbon fiber dome protects the gimbal and sensors.
Seven Intel Pentium-M's and a 64-bit Itanium-2 computer process terrain models, plan routes, avoid hazards and direct H1ghlander's driving.
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