Commercial Robotics

UC Davis Develops Highway Robots

Posted 24 Sep 2001 at 13:53 UTC by steve Share This

UC Davis has been working with the California Department of Transportation to develop robots and robotic attachments for existing CALTRAN vehicles that would allow common jobs to be done by highway workers from the safety of their vehicles. Among their creations are the tethered crack-follower that maps roadway cracks; the random crack sealer; the cone shooter; the ARDVAC debris vacuum removal system; and an advanced sensor system for snowplows. They're already working on other projects including an aerial bridge inspection robot and other teleoperated and autonomous vehicles.

Line Painter, posted 3 Oct 2001 at 14:56 UTC by rex » (Journeyer)

I saw a demo in the parking lot of the local Dairy Queen (actually D.Q. out of business locally, it is a local restaurant now) of a small manual line painter that used spay cans to paint the parking lot lines. It was a tiny unit and was powered by a relaxed skilled operator taking their time. It looked like it might take all day to paint the lot (4 hours?) as customers moved in and out but it was being done by a student and a coach or perhaps a contractor and a local city official (my vision is a bit fractal sometimes and closer I look the more overlapping fractal patterns and possibilities seem to emerge .... kind of an uncertainty principle I guess .... freedom loving citizens seem hate to being pinned down or well understood by the local busybodies ..... keeps life interesting I suppose .....)

If a remote controlled tractor and set of utilities trailors were developed it might be possible to automate or comfortably oversee many of the tasks that currently take entire work crews.

Also of interest is the fact that the parking lot was not closed. Apparently there was a high level of confidence that local citizens would avoid the wet lines if possible and that if they got smudged by accident or inattentiveness that this could easily be fixed or was not a problem. I did not look around to see if there were caution signs or other signals out to attract motorist attention prior to getting into the parking lot which was under construction. Perhaps the work crew and bright new pavement and yellow lines were enough for this relaxed yet efficacious private project approach. How the owner overcame fear of liability for others studidity to allow this project on their business grounds I have no idea. Perhaps they carry business liability insurance with an insurance firm they are comfortable will be their obligations ..... how they found such a firm in the U.S. rather staggers my limited imagination. Still, I was always satisfied with Farmer's Truck Insurance Exchange in Corvallis. When one office treated me badly in my perception I moved on to another agent and his service has been exemplary. An employee had an accident in a company vehicle one time and I never heard anything more about it after I referred the child driver's (the victim, my employee ... think .... and I were in agreement that even though she might have been traveling with the prevailing speed of the traffic a bit faster than posted limit, visibility was good and he definately pulled out in front of her) mother to my agent I never heard anything more about it. This despite the fact that the parent stated this was her only transportation to work and support her family and she needed it fixed. I never followed up and made sure she was actually taken care of by Farmer's. I assumed that if she had problems she would call me back as she was aware that it was a company vehicle and that we acknowledged that we were contributory to the accident occuring even if the basic rule in Oregon says the driver must be in control and able to stop their vehicle at all times prior to impacting other motorists or property. Maybe the next time I talk to Todd I will find out if the name and phone number is in the accident report he filed. Way late to fix if my insurance agency is as bad as some I have seen but it would correct a dangerously inaccurate world view of mine regarding Farmer's Insurance Exchange if the single major accident I have ever been involved in resulted in the victim getting shafted like most of the insurance scams/incidents I have witnessed as a curious observer.

Anyway, back to the subject. Such a robotics tool sized appropriately might help keep taxes down here in Oregon by volunteers or training groups to paint roads as per detailed plans using recycled ground glass mixed in white paint by the county on demand or from reasonable storage. Citizens would want to know what high paid county workers do all day if citizen volunteers are out doing much of the work. It would be important to have open houses and an open door policy in conjunction with a friendly well connected neighborly work force such that local citizens, taxpayers, and commercial interests have a high degree of certainly that the community is receiving value added back commiserate with the effort of volunteers put in. There are a lot of organizations around who seem to exist to waste volunteers time and resources to little true effect and as a result Americans have gotten a bit shy of late about participating in volunteer and even professionally paid team efforts.

Another application incredibly useful in Oregon would be blackberry snipping and gourse trimming. In the past and possibly even now the State of Oregon and County Highway departments have expended huge summs of money spraying carcinogens and toxic chemicals on blackberries and gourse in a futile attempt to keep them back away from the roadbeds. This potentially results in poisened tourists and locals (where were your kids really picking those blackberries you put in their cream and berry ice cream or tarts?) as well as polluted ground water and wild life. I wonder if any of that stuff actually affected genetics of surviving species ..... I recommend against Stephen King's environmentally slanted stuff if you have an overactive imagination ....... one book of his I read probably reduced my hiking and outsdooring by 50% for a couple of years after I read it. Have to wonder though if he has some good points considering the sheer stupidly with which U.S. citizens are willing to cheerfully take Dow's word for stuff and then refuse to read the fine print and refuse to fund independent studies or revisit usage regulations more than twice a century.

I wonder if pharmaceutical company owners also own stock in big chemical companies? First we poisen them at a large profit by capturing American Farmers and using USDA to destroy crops protected by insects prior to them reaching market and then we make lots of money selling ineffective drugs that pretend to fix the chemically induced problems while creating side effects sufficient to encourage further drug use. Finally we charge thousands of dollars a day for the privelege of being warehoused in a hospital or retirement home until their money runs out and then we use the laws we purchased to require relatives to pay thousands for unnecessary and unnatural burial services which incidentally we can use to create future super fund sites.

I shall have to check further into this line of thought .... could be millions, thousands even ..... iff the racket were run properly. The thing I got to figure first though is do I want in on the action or should I make a fortune making noise and creating apparent motion that exacerbates the problems that I make a fortune talking about? After all, a few billion is not enough, I might need a few billion more if someone purchases a yaught a few feet larger than my own or lines it with platinum or titanium fixtures to impress the high society hookers and whores with whom they and I wish to associate.

Maybe while I think about this I will be more careful about washing my hands after handling the roadside cans I have been picking up to help finance the "Getting Ready" effort. Might be fun sometime to audit the accounts of the professionals currently spending billions to prepare the war machine that was supposed to be ready at a moment's notice at a price of past trillions and starving freezing amcits in the streets and see what creative methods (of reaching out to love fellow freedom loving peoples who wish to join the Terran Federation while waiting for the United Planets to get their act together) they are using in their black programs.

I trust that fair play and continuous improvement of processes and standards are the order of the day so when we Americans choose to allow them to shine publicly, they are proud of their performance. Confident that they did their best working within the initial conditions they were given and loving various lover's suggestions if they could measure or even suspect the anticipated gains sufficiently to devise safe ways to try it and find out, retaining options where possible to back up and try again.

Anyway. Cool robot ideas. We should consider adding telemetry and mainframe support so that online tasking and status databases are kept up to date and periodic hardcopy dumps are made either incrementally or in their entirety for military use by home defense forces. Perhaps the slightly obsolete material could be given away to the public for training exercises or recycled effectively in some other way ..... redline QCs could be performed by art and drafting classes in the field to verify that the teams actually accomplished the work they thought they did at the location they reported. This would also provided a closed loop system end to end check. If a third verification method could be devised then a high level of certaintly would start to exist that the white safety lines on our highways that augment night driving for older feeble eyes in the rain locally are actually in place and ready to assist winter drivers and tourists. Not to mention avoiding unnecessary off road accidents in the event of an emergency mass evacuation of a terrorist targetted town.

A possibly profitable way to begin implementing this might be to have teams of interested citizens use the manual tools to mark off start and stop points for line tasking for the highway professionals painting lines with the heavy duty equipment. As they get better they could start knocking off the small lines and the details painted on the road (such as arrows, stops, etc.) so that the county crews would not have to start and stop all the time when painting the highway lines between towns. Also line maintenance could almost be done fractally or chaotically by citizens out for long duration hikes if they used proper flagging techniques and used walkies talkies to tell each other to get out of the road because impatient motorists and/or incompetent CDL drivers had blown by the flag points at high speed. A cell phone could also drop a quarter or two on reporting license numbers and status of offending vehicles to the DMV. Vehicles with large patterns of reckless behavior might warrant a visit by the police of appropriate levels to remind the owners and operators that an audit trail of sorts is beginning to materialize and point out that civil courts do not require absolute certainly to levy large economic penalties if a jury becomes convinced that criminal negligence and willful stupidity were involved even if it could not be proven to the satisfaction of a judge and/or jury adhering to the higher standard of beyond the shadow of a doubt.

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