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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.