Marcus L. Rowland (ffutures) wrote,
Marcus L. Rowland
ffutures

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I said no more automata, but...

...it appears I lied. This is really the last one, forgot to post it before. Comments, as always, gratefully received. But please read the notes before commenting on the picture!

Stanley Steam Chauffeur (USA 1896)
BODY [4], MIND [2], SOUL [-], Driver [6]
Cost: £80 (add £5 for dummy legs, £2 for uniform)
Weight: 115 lb
Carrying Capacity: N/A
Endurance: N/A
Reaction Time: 0.9 seconds
Reliability: 6
Built-In Equipment: -
Also Carried: -
Quote: "Where.. to.. Sir?"
Description: Immobile automaton with twin monochrome eyes, average quality calculating engine with improved speed, anti-phonograph, powered by steam from car's boiler. The steel casing (-1 Effect) is enamelled as a chauffeur's uniform with flesh-coloured face and hands.
Notes: When the Stanley brothers launched their first steam cars in 1896 this automaton was an optional extra which made them a runaway success. It was a relatively inexpensive replacement for a human chauffeur, costing considerably less than a year's wages plus accommodation. The Steam Chauffeur must be fitted in a workshop, in place of the driver's seat, and is permanently connected to the car's steam supply and controls. The casing is humanoid from the waist up, with a somewhat oversized head to accommodate the calculating engine and eye mechanisms, but has no legs or feet, just pistons attached to the accelerator and brake pedals; its hands are designed solely for operating the controls. The photograph shows an early production model in California. Some purchasers find the legless model unnerving, and dummy legs can be added to make them look a little more lifelike, as can specially-fitted chauffeur's uniforms padded to make the size of the head look a little more natural. The Stanley model was originally only available for Stanley Steamers, but proved so popular that several other steam-car companies began to buy them and offer them as optional extras for their own vehicles. There are rival models from Ford, Daimler, etc., built for other types of power supply, typically compressed air or a belt drive from the engine.
Legal note: In Britain automaton-driven vehicles are limited to 10 MPH in urban areas, 20 MPH elsewhere, must have prominent red flags as a warning that they are not under human control, and must carry at least one human occupant capable of stopping the vehicle in an emergency. There is reason to believe that this law is often broken; steam cars carrying dead-drunk farmers home from market are a cliche of rural fiction, but probably rooted in fact.
(Thanks to Tim Illingworth and John Birchby for suggesting some details)

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