Life — Mechatronics Enabled
In my previous blog on Envisioneering Future Tractors, I have a YouTube video clip of a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) humanoid robot. In a recent modification of that presentation to the IEEE Technology Management Chapter I mentioned the new DARPA Robotic Challenge which just started and will have its contest one year from now. The Kenshiro robot from the University of Tokyo looks pretty good — I think, better than the preview of their competition submission for next year. I often thought of the development of Automated Mechanical Transmissions as a very mild form of robotics. Trying to mimic the actions of a driver while shifting (sound of engine/transmission, judgement of speed, feeling of jerkiness, manipulation of the shift lever, manipulation of the throttle pedal, manipulation of the clutch) has reached a pretty good state. A vast majority of heavy truck transmissions in Europe are now automated. Volvo/Mack is reporting 40% penetration now for its proprietary transmission and moving production to the USA. This week, Daimler Trucks expanded its plans for a proprietary AMT. They already planned introduction this coming year; this week they announced plans to manufacture some portion in the USA with an expansion of the Detroit Redford plant. Take this a step further with some of the materials related to driverless vehicles, and the end might be a truck mechatronic system that, in effect, is a robot of the driver.