The Good Oil: Creepy robots , flying cars, and anniversaries
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Ford’s creepy robots act as ‘helping hands’
Although not quite a Rise of the Robots scenario, here at The Good Oil we can’t help but feel a little perturbed on behalf of line-workers everywhere by Ford’s latest addition to the factory floor.
Robots in vehicle assembly halls are nothing new (and quite mesmerising to watch in a weird, balletic way) but Ford’s introduction of the “co-bot” feels altogether creepier.
A co-bot is a robot you’re supposed to work alongside in perfect harmony, all Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder-like. It is – quite literally – designed to give Ford’s assembly workers a helping hand.
Initially co-bots have been implemented to help fit shock absorbers to Fiestas at FoMoCo’s plant in Cologne, Germany. But we can only assume – unless they try to take over the factory in a technological coup d’etat – they’ll be assimilated into the worker population elsewhere too.
Rather than the fully formed human replicant android of your sweatiest Orwellian nightmare , the co-bots are actually just a muscley-looking arm designed to help the adjacent line-worker lift heavy assemblies into cars. Somehow that makes it even creepier.
But it gets weirder still. The co-bot’s hand looks quite human and will give you a thumbs-up or shake your hand if you tell it to.
Ugh, no thanks HAL 9000. Just stick to putting the shock absorbers in place, thanks.
Run it up the flagpole and see...
The Jeep Wrangler 75th Salute concept. Picture / Supplied
Here at The Good Oil we’ve decided Jeep is the biggest tease in the entire world.
More so than supercar manufacturers with impossibly unattainable limited edition models that sell out to the world’s elite in 15 seconds flat.
More so than Japanese carmakers with outlandish show car concepts that always seem far too tame by the time they reach showrooms.
Jeep are very very good at drawing upon their lengthy history to create 4x4 fantasist dream vehicles.
You only have to check in with what their George Barris-in-sturdy-hiking-boots type designers come up with for anniversaries, such as the multiple lineup of amazing models unveiled at the annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari last year.
Now Jeep is at it again — delving right into the recesses of the brand’s beginnings to help celebrate its 75th anniversary.
The carmaker does just enough to ensure the mighty Jeep Wrangler of today (still the least comfortable vehicle we’d love to own) exhibits the robust DNA of its forebear, the Willys Jeep. Well, it still features the same-shaped grille anyway ...
But now, Jeep really does have a modern Wrangler that pays homage to the first of its kind. It’s called the Salute and, with stripped down everything and a World War II-spec matt olive green paint job, it’s possibly the best Wrangler ever.
It’s based on the Wrangler Sport, but ditches the b-pillars and doors of the mainstream example, along with anything chrome-covered. It also sits on 16-inch colour-coded steel wheels wrapped in 32-inch non-directional tyres. It features bonnet latches, an offset rear-mounted spare wheel, steel bumpers with tow hooks and commemorative decals.
Even the interior doesn’t escape the military makeover, with low-backed canvas seats replacing comfier 21st-century versions. The engine is the same 3.6-litre V6 Pentastar featured in the modern Jeep Wrangler Sport, however. So it has plenty of power.
Why is this a tease? Well, there’s no word yet on whether the Wrangler Salute will be offered for sale. But in our limited experience, you remove the b-pillar and — rather crucially — the doors, and although the vehicle you’re paying homage to might have won a Purple Heart for valour (true story; Google it), there won’t be a single safety star coming your way any time soon.
More flying car madness/genius
Last week we reported on a comically childlike blueprint Toyota has filed with the US Patent Office for a body-morphing and potentially flyable car design.
This week, The Good Oil’s ridiculous mad genius flying car section comes to you courtesy of Google.
One of the technology giant’s founders, Larry Page (pictured), has reportedly invested in not one, but two start-up companies that are racing to manufacture the world’s first mass-produced flying car.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Page has invested more than US$135 million over the past five years in a company called Zee.Aero. But now — possibly in an effort to incentivise Zee.Aero to get the damn things to market — Page has also started funnelling cash into a second flying car company called Kitty Hawk.
At this stage Kitty Hawk looks to be focusing more on autonomously-piloted drones than the sorts of flying cars you’re thinking of right now. But conversely all the indicators suggest that Zee.Aero seems to be on the verge of ... well, something big.
Its first model is already at the prototype stage and, according to the Bloomberg report, has been regularly conducting test flights. Zee.Aero has also been on a brains trust buying-spree in recent years, poaching designers and engineers from organisations such as Nasa, Boeing and Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s SpaceX project, all thanks to Page’s financial backing.
Seems like a bizarre investment, sure but we’re pretty sure someone would have suggested Google as an idea was “just about crazy enough to actually work” once upon a time too.
1 MISNOMER The Jeep was first the GP (General Purpose), but the slang stuck.
2 DAYS Time it took Karl Probst of US firm Bantam to design the Jeep prototype.
1 PRESIDENTIAL OWNER Ronald Reagan has so far been the only sitting President to own a Jeep.
1987 YEAR Chrysler became the sole owner of the Jeep brand.