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Old 09-09-2021, 01:51 AM   #12
Join Date: Apr 2005
Default Re: Things worth having in a Cyberpunk Campaign

Chasing my robo-logistics idea further:

Built-In Diagnostics and Self-Help Routines

While they almost never leave storage or distribution facilities, the micros and minis can self-right themselves if they're tipped over, either on their own or with the assistance of their "peers." They also have limited ability cross obstacles, climb steps or curbs, and turn around in tight places. Cargo compartments are insulated and weathertight, possibly even watertight to a few feet, allowing the robots to get wet and still protect their cargo.

Storage compartments are watertight. If a flood happens the facility might be a mess but the packages and robots will be undamaged.

Internal sensors, cleaner robots, and so forth alert the robot if it's dirty or contaminated or if its cargo isn't completely unloaded.

Robots also emit the equivalent of an "IFF signal" as part of their collision avoidance routines. Other nearby robots can detect the absence of the IFF signal, or distress signals, and react accordingly. Each robot has about as much AI as a small social animal. They can run away from threats, take cover, or swarm to a robot in trouble in order to help it.

They can also report "dead" robots and those behaving in an abnormal fashion. That allows AI and human supervisors to take appropriate action. Dead or "lost" robots can also be detected by AI supervisors when they fail to update their status.


If a robot encounters a problem "in the field" alerts AI and possibly sends out a signal for help. It then runs through sophisticated self-repair, self-righting, and obstacle avoidance routines, as appropriate. If it's damaged, it reports its status and AI takes it out of service and dispatches it to the nearest maintenance facility.

If a robot "dies" inside a robo truck or mini-container bot or is otherwise incapable of unloading itself, it can be pulled out of the larger container by specialized "ambulance" robots. Meanwhile, the containers are designed so the failure of one robot doesn't block the movement of others.

Once removed, any cargo the robot was carrying gets unloaded by (usually robotic) hand and the bot is flagged for maintenance or disposal.

If a robot dies or malfunctions at a storage facility which doesn't have mechanics, ambulance robots put it onto a robo truck headed for a maintenance facility.

If things get really bad, humans can be dispatched to the scene to solve problems that the robots can't solve themselves. AI + human biometrics can be used to open specific robot containers allowing the contents to be unloaded manually.

Hijacked or out-of-control bots can be shut down remotely by AI or directly by human supervisors on-site using the equivalent of remote control units. Law Enforcement also has specialized "bot killing" tools which disable rogue robots using EMP or just massive electric shocks. Robo containers are tough, but not tough enough to stand up to military- grade weaponry.

Robo-Truck Failures

If a robo truck breaks down or can't reach its destination, AI or human managers immediately get involved, just like a truck accident or breakdown today. The truck is rerouted or a new truck is sent based on best local sensor information. If a conex container needs to be unloaded AI or a human supervisor makes the call as to whether the mini-containers are offloaded with the micros still aboard, or if the micros leave while the minis stay behind.

Micro- and mini-containers can move about as fast as a walking person when not on pre-programmed routes. This means that transferring them from one container to another takes about as much time as a group of fit and organized people getting on or off a bus. (Inside distro and storage facilities robots travel much faster.)

Dealing with Theft

Hijacking a robo truck requires hacking not just its onboard controls, but also spoofing its update signals to the AI. This requires the thieves to know where the truck is going, which robots and packages are aboard, and lots of other data, all in real-time. Of course, this data is all encrypted making the hacker's task even harder.

Assuming they're successful, the thieves then need to fool each robot into unloading itself and opening up its cargo compartment. Meanwhile, they have to spoof status updates from every member of the group. This means feeding lots more specialized encrypted data to various machines in real time.

Since they're mutually self-protecting container bots will attempt to report abnormal use of one of their own, such as opening one of them in an unauthorized location. If attacked, they emit ear-piercing alarms and try to run or hide.

Alternately, they can be programmed to crowd around a particular container in order to protect it. The same built-in linkages which keep them in place aboard robo-trucks can link the group together, forcing would-be thieves to cut apart the entire bunch in order to get to the one they want.

Depending the level of lethal force allowed to the shipping company, some robo-containers might incorporate more lethal countermeasures.

Meanwhile, even if hijackers successfully spoof all the required data, any deviation from routine, such as late check-ins, gets flagged by the AI for analysis. Multiple deviations trigger alarms and draw human attention.

Impeding, lifting, or damaging a mini- or micro-robot, or moving a conex container off a robo truck outside of a shipping facility, instantly sets off alarms and defense mechanisms. AI and human supervisors are immediately alerted. If the reported damage or abnormal movement indicate a likely accident or robbery local police are notified.

Meanwhile audiovisual sensors aboard each robot are busy recording the scene.

Stealing from a storage facility is like attacking a post office filled with just armored mailboxes, video screens, and security sensors.

Attacking from the customer side means cutting or blasting open a safe while the robots and human staff on the other side of the wall are watching.

Forcing your way into the employee areas requires getting through a high security fence and several high security doors. If you try to get in while a robo truck is unloading you have to dodge heavy cargo bots which will maneuver to block your entrance or cut off your escape.

In any case, the container bots trigger their alarms once intruders are detected, producing a deafening noise. This triggers the smart building's inherent security features. If one of the bots is attacked the rest of the group either link themselves together to form a solid mass or flee to parts of the facility designed for small boxes on wheels rather than humans.

Assuming the container bots can be caught or unlinked, thieves then face the same problems as robo truck hijackers. All while being recorded by multiple security sensors, with alarms going off, empty container bots interfering with their movement, and human employees in a secure control facility calling the cops or corporate security.
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