Monday, March 24, 2008

I suppose it beats the DHS Yukon?

Well, there's this late breaking news from the combined Politics/Autonomous Robotic Automobile Department at the Trib:

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl plans to take a ride in Carnegie Mellon University's self-driving SUV on Tuesday, the mayor's office said today.

Boss, a robotic 2007 Chevy Tahoe, won the $2 million Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's Urban Challenge robot race in California last year.

Ravenstahl will ride in the vehicle while visiting Robot City, located on the former LTV Steel Co. site in Hazelwood.

Boss was developed to meet the federal challenge for driverless vehicles that could deliver goods in dangerous situations.
I was assuming that this is just a safe way for the Mayor to make it home after the more, shall we say, rambunctious Steeler games and other community meetings.

BUT PERHAPS I AM WRONG! From Unpopular Mechanics'* more popular sister publication Popular Mechanics:
But here in Robot City, Boss is a well-trained circus animal, and when the call comes over the walkie-talkies that the 30-mph run is about to begin, I'm loaded into the back seat for what I assume will be a leisurely ride. Boss has other plans.

As heat cascades from the hardware stacked behind me, the truck lurches forward. Invisible hands wrench the wheel back and forth with surprising violence. Boss brakes hard ahead of every turn, then guns the engine halfway through, oblivious to the humans bouncing like crash-test dummies in the cabin. When Boss slams the brakes at the intersection, my face collides with the headrest in front of me, and I finally get it. Boss isn't trying to drive like a human. It is utterly singleminded. It moves without grace or half-measures, with a cold, binary confidence. And no matter how much it beats me up, I feel safer than when most people are behind the wheel. Not that Boss cares, of course. It wasn't built to chauffeur humans. Boss was born to outrun other robots, and until someone flips it back to manual mode, I'm just along for the ride.
So, perhaps the Mayor might want to (a) reconsider this ride before someone makes the obvious metaphoric connection between the the robot and his administration or (b) wear a helmet.

* Most Popular feature: Do-it-yourself automated feces producer.**
** No, it's completely unlike a "blog," smartass.

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