The celebrated roboticists of Carnegie Mellon University are using their DARPA Urban Challenge know-how to give the gift of autonomous operation to a 700-ton mining truck formerly known as the Caterpillar 797B. As you might have suspected, the Japanese construction-gear firm Komatsu was actually first with an automated mining vehicle, but being Japanese, it's more compact, OK puny. Officially no mobile robot will have weighed as much as this bright yellow bastard, according to Discovery. It's way too easy to make a Terminator reference here, so I'm gonna have to play the Maximum Overdrive card. Not scared yet? Read on.
The top layer of autonomy is aided by GPS—following a map and relaying your position is the simplest way to stay out of too much trouble. The next layer of sensibility comes from laser range finders. These would scan everything in the road to see if it is free from obstruction. According to the Discovery story:
Video equipment would then determine if the object is a hazard, such as a rock, or not. All of the information would then be run through a computer program that would tell the robotic driver to avoid the obstacle or not and by how much.
So how come it's "rocks" that are dangerous? And how is "man" categorised in this seemingly arbitrary catalog? I don't think I'd want to be anywhere near that mean-looking grille when the Carnegie nerds flip the on switch. For more information that may help you survive an uprising starring the 797B ("b" for bloodthirsty, I will guess), hit both source links. [Discovery via Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends]