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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.


The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Automating Everything - Why the Revolution? (Patent Pending) - Part 1

What if every delivery, installation and repair in the world could be effectively automated, with no human presence required? Whether pizzas or refrigerators, furniture or pharmaceuticals, smartphones or snail mail, what if it could all arrive at your door and even be installed inside without any visitors ever being present? What if your deliveries could find you on the move, or if your purchase could be constructed close at hand in the first place, even those requiring special skills to make? What would happen if some repairs could be handled by unmanned repair shops or even some devices’ own internal systems?

What would it mean if a rare piece of expensive technology could be repaired immediately at a remote base or if someone in need of a brilliant neurosurgeon or cardiologist could receive their aid while hundreds of miles from the nearest hospital?

How would other fields change if critical personnel could be rushed to the scene by the dozens or thousands without deploying one additional person, bolstering emergency personnel handling disaster sites, forest fires, missing-person searches, security threats or other crises where the available assistance is often neither numerous nor expert nor remotely expendable? What if a host of systems could be actively coordinated by just a handful of people to deal with even more exotic threats from emergent pandemics to countering cyber-threats?

What if even more hostile natural environments, such as space itself, could be opened up to development by the same form of automation and oversight?

And what if the little human intervention involved constantly trained the software to require less and less human assistance, or even awareness, so that the entire system would continue to become even more self-reliant and adaptable? And what if all of this was already possible using off-the-shelf technology, available from numerous sources?

Because it is. The building blocks already exist and now so does the invention that brings them all together… patent pending.

The details can be found below, in this introduction, and the rest of the article expands upon them.

But for now, the question is not: What if?

But rather: What now?

Here follows a brief description of the means to automate all of these technologies with no human presence and minimal human intervention. Not every image sent to the Patent Office is included herein, but a few resources are included because they so clearly illustrate the emerging technologies that can be incorporated into the system as described.

The system begins with its core purpose, automating deliveries, installations, repairs, remote manufacturing and assorted services for the commercial world, and naturally expands from there.

So how do we automate these basic elements of retail, and then everything else? The key innovations required are self-driving vehicles, autonomous robots, VR gear, haptic gloves, our existing 3D street maps, smartphone video cameras and GPS technology. Other innovations can be incorporated as they become available, but what we need we already have.

Right now, a delivery, whether it is a shipped package, a store white-goods delivery or a basic installation, has certain elements in common. Someone loads an item into a truck, someone drives that truck to a destination, and someone unloads that item at the other end. Unfortunately, you need at least one person on every vehicle, committed to being there for the entire delivery route, which can easily last for several hours, especially for multiple deliveries. If a second delivery person is needed, you have just doubled your personnel commitment.

And yet most if not all of the actions required by the delivery team can just as easily be handled by machines, and the few requiring human oversight and awareness take up only a fraction of the time required of these employees. The human element is still irreplaceable in many instances, but whether their skills are very basic or incredibly refined, too many employees have to be paid for little more than traveling to and from the task at hand… because their time is valuable too. But what if bringing that human element to the project took almost no time or personnel at all, by cutting out the elements well within the programmed expertise of machines?

Let us begin by considering the basic commercial delivery.

A simple package delivery – whether a mailed parcel, a small purchase sent from the store, or even a pizza – only requires that the item reach a customer or their doorstep, and possibly for said customer to sign a pad or pay for their goods upon arrival. Google’s automated vehicles obviously have the potential to get goods very close to your doorstep. Google has made a point of testing their cars with live, competent humans in the driver’s seat, but inevitably, unmanned vehicles are in our future. A likely interim step for the unmanned auto would be the remote-oversight compromise – having someone watching remotely who is capable of stepping in and controlling the vehicle in real time and absolutely capable of hitting a “Stop” button if it looks like a truck is about to back over, say, a child, a pet or a petunia. Note, however, that existing high-end vehicles are already introducing safety features that involve the machine reacting automatically and faster than a human driver in order to protect its occupants. People will soon begin to see human intervention as less critical, except with regards to their own judgment calls, for example, what parts of their yard and driveway are accessible and what parts are off limits.

Once a vehicle has arrived, the simplest delivery can be handled by an ordinary automated cart with similar but simpler programming than the code used by the primary vehicle. All the cart needs to do is load up its package, drive out of the truck, and roll up to a door. Other actions, such as asking for money to be deposited before the release of the goods, proffering a digital pad for a signature, or knocking on a door, are trivial and can be handled using existing technology. A recorded voice and digital display can request payment, payment can be handled like a self-service checkout, and raising and holding an attached pad or firmly tapping on a door with a padded limb are very straightforward motions. The latter can use a rangefinder to help gauge distance, but once programmers know the optimum speed, direction and force for the motion, the cart should be able to perform it every time with whatever limb is built in to handle it. If they were in some way challenged by this motion, the same cart could always include a recorded knocking noise, a voice calling out and/or a directional doorbell with the sound projected towards the residence or business and muffled in other directions. Simply putting the speaker deep inside the cart at one end of a cone whose wider open end will face toward the door will create the directional effect with minimal effort. Meanwhile, inside the delivery truck, packages would be pre-loaded into racks that would transfer them onto the delivering cart.

Stairways pose a challenge for this automated-cart option, which are addressed with more complex deliveries below. Before leaving this relatively basic method behind, however, remember that walking down two or three steps will be an acceptable effort for most customers. Also remember that some smaller obstacles are not as impassable as we might imagine. With three steps before our plucky little cart, simply dropping a short, extendable ramp from the top of the cart and having a smaller cart sitting on top drive onto the porch to knock on the door and deliver the item will do. Alternatively, the cart might start a bit further back, lay down a temporary ramp, and roll up itself. Either way, the cart will be programmed to accept some locations as inaccessible, to label them as such in its corporate database, and to allow for other delivery methods in those instances. Human oversight, in the meantime, will allow for the same discrimination – if a cart can not recognize that a location poses an insurmountable obstacle to its delivery, but is likewise unable to deliver, it will signal its human overseers after a pre-set interval (for example, a five-minute delay in a step in the delivery) and they will make that distinction for it with the touch of button. Further, even before this system becomes more fully automated, one human being can easily watch a bank of monitors and hit a pause or abort button and even take direct remote control over the cart as necessary. A more automated cart will be able to pause and signal whenever it needs assistance or is merely “confused” (facing a challenge not clearly covered in its programming), enabling human overseers to handle even more simultaneous deliveries. If multiple overseers watch these deliveries, focusing on those actively occurring, each employee can take exclusive control of a specific delivery and pause others until they or another overseer can intervene. By allowing multiple watchers to observe and step in as needed, simultaneous issues become less of a problem, allowing a larger number of otherwise autonomous deliveries to occur per employee handling oversight duties.

The standard, automated delivery would include a prerecorded message announcing the order’s arrival and a photo of whoever took the package and possibly signed for it. Barring more difficult terrain or a delivery requiring more than a simple hand off and a signed digital pad, one or two powered carts could handle the simplest door-to-door deliveries.

But the real breakthrough in delivery options remains humanoid robots. Research companies have already developed both quadruped and biped robots capable of independently navigating rough, natural terrain. Their independence is still limited to moving around autonomously and carrying loads, but for our purposes, that is all we need. Once you have a human-shaped robot capable of walking into a building while managing a load, you can let humans handle the rest. Carrying loads, walking up stairs and regaining their footing when pushed off balance are basic tasks which these robots have already mastered. And Petman and Atlas, given an adequate power supply, such as modern, compressed-natural-gas fuel cells, already fit the bill. They just need to get a better look, a human perspective and a little guidance.

How? Here is where we integrate cameras and remote sites most thoroughly into the program, allowing delivery personnel wearing VR gear (such as the recent Oculus Rift equipment, or any of its imitators) and haptic gloves to view what is going on and to direct the route of the robots. More importantly, with a clear view of what is going on and haptic gloves, those personnel can take their robots in hand and not only guide them, but take direct control over their arm movements. By having the robot’s arms mirror those of the human controller during this remote override, an operator watching from the perspective of cameras built into or attached to the robot’s head can control their every gesture. Hence, pulling out refrigerators and plugging them back in becomes something easily handled by a person who does that all the time.

The advantage to this is that your delivery personnel are not spending hours upon hours each day either driving to delivery locations or riding along with the driver. You only need their time and attention during each stop. Once their part in a delivery has been concluded, they can go on to overseeing the next delivery or waiting for the next chance to use their skills. The truck is entirely capable of getting itself to its next location. Once no human oversight is required to drive from one site to another, you will never need to commit personnel for the entire length of a trip, but only for the delivery of goods that takes place once your vehicle arrives. For all deliveries or installations requiring this kind of brief, routine, but skilled or semi-skilled work, you can cut your personnel requirements drastically.

The capital cost is always key, but remember the price of information technology is constantly dropping, even as its power increases. A company making deliveries already has trucks – automating them is a matter of adding electronic controls and a copy of the software. By the time you are ready to do this, even on a small scale, that technology will not only have proved itself, its price tag will have dropped well below the cost of the excess drivers, who probably don’t want to be hauling refrigerators indefinitely anyway. And some of whom will still be doing so, just on the other end of those cameras and haptic sensors, instead of in person, using their own backs. And $15 an hour, for 40 hours a week, for 2 personnel represents, in 10 weeks, $12,000. Or in 50 weeks, $60,000. For 200 personnel working at that pace, $6,000,000. Meanwhile, the cost of computer hardware continues to drop at the pace of Moore’s Law, and electronics have experienced a similar and ongoing decline in price for decades.

Phased in with the cart-and-van basic delivery and an aesthetically pleasing look for your humanoid robots, you will have an extremely unintimidating method of getting goods to your customers. The basic delivery itself, however, may not be so trivial in terms of its impacts.

Wedded to an effective inventory count and a reliable confirmation of ordered goods (which could similarly be enhanced by double checking through video), the basic delivery will enable customers who want something from the store but who do not have time to get it during their busy day a means of ordering remotely while at one location, and then receiving it at a place and time of their choosing, even if they do not know where or exactly when they will choose to receive it later.

Handling all of these actions will be illustrated and described in greater detail below as will the other services enabled by this invention.

Automating Everything - The Rollout or The Disney Feel, Not the Terminator Motif - Part 2

The advantages of automation will be persuasive in the themselves for both businesses and customers, but it will be important to avoid the most obvious pitfalls in rolling all of this out to the public.

The customer’s benefits are straightforward. Within certain rough parameters, direct delivery of in-stock goods should be something the seller (or rather the software) can set an approximate time for, offering customers who may have appointments or are tied up at work the ability to shop and immediately receive their goods without ever having to come in or to pay an excessive delivery fee. While vehicles will still experience wear and tear, the reduction in delivery personnel combined with a drop in transport-fuel/energy prices (driven by the steady fall in alternative-energy prices and other factors) will make automated delivery an attractive option to many customers. Combined with the automated loading of some truck loads, certain products could become available at any time, at any location, at the convenience of the customer, all without the disturbing implications of aerial drones or conventional bipedal-robot deliveries.

The public resistance against aerial drones may evolve, but in the meantime, if these drones can not be used generally for delivery or in specific areas (such as dense urban areas with laws against them) they can still be used if high-speed transportation to a location is needed even if the airborne drone can not make the final delivery. They can move products at high speed to local distribution centers, or simply rendezvous with a temporarily halted transport truck, depositing their package in a port to have it transferred to the storage racks inside, or handing it off to a humanoid robot for remote handling by personnel overseeing the handoff. As drone agility improves, actually landing on the roof of a moving truck may be possible, but until the programmers, drivers, companies and legal authorities are all comfortable with that option, it will have to wait for several practical reasons. Nevertheless, human intervention can overcome the limitations of the automated system here as surely as it can with carts or humanlike robots.

Biped robots, while extremely useful, do have a downside as they are presently designed – most people find them a little disturbing to look at, if not scary. Obviously, a disconcerting look is more of a problem in retail than it is for infantry shock troops. The issue, however, should be addressed by more than a visual makeover. How the technology is rolled out will have a strong impact on how readily it is assimilated.

First, consider how robots are portrayed in major media. Fortunately, that has actually been changing for some time. Consider how Petman and Atlas from Google appear and the impression they leave on normal observers, as opposed to Baymax from Big Hero 6 or Wall-E. Please note that the cartoon Wall-E robot also shows the simple compromise of integrating robotic arms with the above cart delivery system. Such arms could be as easily controlled by a remote human overseer as those of a humanoid robot.

In short, there are obviously some images that are far more appealing than others. More importantly, many younger people are far more open to new technology, especially if it is really useful or convenient. One of the ways that people can become more acclimated to this kind of technology is to introduce the changes they would want the most and which they would object to the least. On this level, automated cars for the individual can transform the daily commute, and deliveries of certain common items (like food) will integrate quite easily into the economy. Giving customers a look behind the curtain and the chance to use the haptic gloves will also make change easier – the chance to control a robot remotely doing something interesting, challenging or dangerous for a human being can give people a better sense of what is going on. (This introduction does not even have to be done directly by the company; plenty of schools will be happy to have even occasional access to the basic manipulator technology as an educational tool.)

Further, the roll out of this means of delivery will inevitably begin in the markets most receptive to it – cities with high disposable income (particularly those with a high cost of living for manual laborers) and open to the technological innovations their local economies are based on, as well as thoroughly mapped out for apps such as Google Maps or Streetview. Obvious options for that initial release include Seattle, Tokyo, San Francisco, Seoul, Austin, Hong Kong, the Research Triangle in North Carolina and even, with certain built-in safeguards, DC.

Part 1
Part 3

Automating Everything - The Basic Delivery in Detail - Part 3

In response to a customer’s order, a retailer transmits a request to their nearest store or warehouse which has the goods and which has been retrofitted for automated loading. A shelf1 holding one boxed item2 is remotely signaled and tips up the section the item is sitting on3 (via an electric motor4) and allows it to slide back through a soft flap5 at the back of the shelf and onto the upper or lower conveyer belt6 (similar to a checkout counter conveyer belt) to slide to the back of the store for loading. As the box reaches the end of the belt, a set of laser scanners7 turn on as it passes over them and scan it on all four sides, confirming the product and quantity. Another item8 hanging from a metal rod9 slides back as another motor10 tips up the rod. For both types of products, the back flap on the shelf only allows one item through at a time and effectively counts them off as each swing of the flap signals an electronic counter to make sure they equal the numbers of items being sourced from the store, a stock check also performed by the scanners. The products can go from where they collect at the end of the conveyor belt to a pre-programmed cart11 heading to the loading docks or be manually retrieved by a store employee12. If loaded onto the cart, an electric motor13 will tilt the platform14 they are waiting on and tip the products down a funneling chute (much like a grain chute)15 into the open cargo space16 of the cart.

Alternatively, a humanoid robot17 or a robotic cart with attached arms18 heads to the location of the product, retrieves it, takes it to the location of a truck or loading dock, passes it through a scanner19 and puts it either on the truck or in a loading bin where the product will wait until it is ready to be loaded. (If the store is being designed from scratch for this purpose, the conveyer belt could simply tilt downward and pass beneath the floor on its way to the loading docks, but this is not practical given the existing construction of most retail outlets.)

An automated delivery truck1 pulls up and lowers a ramp2 to unload an automated delivery cart3. The cart is already loaded upon arrival by a version of the shelf-clearing technique used in a store. In this case, the shelf section or sections4 holding the product tip forward and let it slide forward onto the slide5 of a chute (much like a funneling grain chute ) that funnels6 the product onto the load-carrying section7 of the cart. Items on the upper shelves8 have a minimum weight which causes the upper, counterweighted9 funneling chutes to tip slightly themselves to put the funnel’s end squarely upon the cart. Items set on the floor10 are raised by electric motor11 on the individual, short column they sit on which is normally retracted into the floor to a sufficient height to tip onto the lowest slide.12 Internal cameras allow overseers to check on any error messages or other issues that might arise inside the truck.
The cart1 rolls up to the door2 of a house with no stairs. Meanwhile, a remote delivery overseer3 watches several ongoing deliveries at once, prepared to intervene, abort or cede control to another unoccupied specialist at the touch of a button4. An automatic text goes to the customer’s phone, if requested during the order, to note the delivery is happening now.

The delivery cart halts in front of the door. It generates a directional, pre-recorded doorbell from a speaker5 to alert the occupant. After a pause, if that elicits no response, the cart follows up with a directional knocking sound. If there is still no response, it can extend a rod tipped with a foam-rubber end6 and tap the door three times in a clear but polite knock.

When the customer answers, the delivery cart can uncover7 the signature pad8 and raise a short column9 with an electric motor so the customer can sign, if necessary, with the attached stylus. If payment is required, say for a phone ordered pizza, this column will also include the card reader10, cash input port11, change dispenser12 and receipt printout13 as well.
Cutaway View
Once the delivery is ready to be handed off, the cart can release the product by partially retracting14 the clear plastic dome15 that covers it back into the vehicle’s interior. If the retailer wants the cart to be able to take a product indoors for a customer but expects to be delivering in areas where it might track in dirt or debris, a six-wheeled version16 of the same cart can move each pair of wheels in turn over a doormat and spin them briefly but rapidly while locking all other wheels in place. If further stability and leverage are required, lowering a pair of rubber tipped shafts17 at the front of the vehicle while spinning the wheels will let the cart brace itself while lifting the front end fractionally to the let the wheels spin without carrying the machine’s weight. A pair at the rear18 can serve the same purpose for the back wheels, and both pairs can be deployed while cleaning the center set of wheels.

If a delivery requires more complex actions than an automated cart can provide, such as removing an old refrigerator and plugging in a new one, or installing a dishwasher, or simply navigating a flight of stairs, humanoid robots can take over. Normally, deliveries will be allocated based on the level of difficulty anticipated but they can be reassigned as needed. If the alternate but more costly cart design incorporating remotely controllable robotic arms19 is widespread in making deliveries for a company, a cart could simply place a lightweight ramp20 that braces itself21 against the ground and the stairs and roll up it. Another option is available if the larger basic cart is modified to provide it. A smaller cart22 could load onto the main cart23 (while that larger cart’s covering dome was mostly retracted24), and the primary cart could extend a lightweight ramp25 for its rider which would drive across it to the open door. As this ramp extended, retractable support rods26 at the front of the cart (two to lift and balance each half of ramp) would extend to brace it and then lower or rise as necessary before locking in place to provide the smaller riding cart with one of a number of angles so that it could cross to a deck, porch or doorway either below, above or level with its mounted position. These braces would be tipped with rollers27 that would support the ramp as it was first extending. The rollers would in turn retract28 into the rods when the ramp was fully extended, allowing it, being anchored at its rear by a hinge29, to drop down onto the broad rubber-coated tops of the braces.

But if the augmented cart and ramp are unavailable, or more complex actions are required than mounting a few exterior stairs to reach a doorway, humanoid robots can be deployed.

When one or more humanoid robots1 are needed, they will emerge from their normal storage location, the driver and passenger seats of the truck. Remote overseers trained in their control will use haptic gloves2 to take direct control over their hand and arm motions and watch the delivery from their robot’s perspective (through cameras3 in its head) using standard VR goggles4. Because their hands will be otherwise occupied, control over how the robots walk will fall to a combination of factors. Each robot’s normal programming already covers normal walking, climbing, getting up, recovering balance and overcoming basic obstacles. Overseers can use biofeedback-based controls in a simple headband5 to handle the basic commands of whether to move, how fast and in which direction. Because required operator input is so limited, only these most basic commands need to be transmitted, and any biofeedback system that can transmit them will suffice. (These exist and have been cheap enough to be included in some video games for years.)  Given the most advanced humanoid robots are already avoiding falls and unbalancing situations as they move, if their hesitation must be overcome by issuing an override, the overseer may do so using verbal commands.

Locating delivery locations, whether for a set address or for a delivery to a customer “on the go” will be confirmed with multiple sources of information.  Geolocation of the final delivery point can use set addresses as effective landmarks, GPS coordinates and phone-location tracking, comparative video, facial recognition, texting and a confirmation code.

A customer will place an order1 with this system, thereby triggering several commands within the app governing the sale. The app will, of course, process the sale and confirm any payment using standard programming. But the phone app will also take a brief video scan2 of the location where the delivery is to take place, assuming the user checks off a box or clicks a radio button3 indicating they want the delivery to be sent to their present area (this will also be an option for other apps depending on their platform’s capabilities). For on-the-go deliveries the phone will also request that the customer allow a brief scan of their own face4, which can be used as a retinal scan5 if they look directly at the camera, or moving the phone past their face in an arc6 while recording the facial image to provide a reference that includes a continuous, changing 3D image (harder to simulate). Either way, the background will also be taken in7, if only peripherally, making it that much harder to fake the biometrics by supplying the data for a single set image of a face or retina, without including the customer’s immediate environment. This scan, whether facial or retinal, will be optional unless it becomes a standard requirement to minimize fraud. The facial scan will also reference back to previous scans of the customer’s face to help confirm identity. The background scan will reference back to previous images of the street or other location (if recorded in databases the retailer might have access to, such as Google Street Map). As quantum computing becomes both widespread and cheap, they will also take a fast Fourier transform to compare these images to one another and to the images the delivering machine will see when it delivers, as well as to previous images taken as both biometric security and further facial-recognition references. Finally, when the delivery system arrives, it can check the data provided against what it is seeing upon delivery8, or even require a final biometric scan9 – and either way, the final data set will be collected by a device under the company’s control, not the customer’s. The customer’s phone could also video the cart and transmit that image back in real time (as with a video chat) while the cart flashed confirmation images or codes over its payment screen.

While the truck-and-cart delivery system described above can be employed in these deliveries, if the customer clicks the option for curbside delivery, these deliveries to on-the-move customers could be distributed through much smaller vehicles. Given automated-driving programs that can handle roads and city streets, smaller vehicles such as compact cars, half-cars, aerial drones or even velomobiles or a motorcycle or moped with a side car could bring products directly to the purchaser.

One option is simply a miniature version of the truck-and-cart system operating out of a very small truck or a modified van or car. In this case the vehicle stops, unloads the cart carrying the package and delivers to the customer directly as requested. Another alternative is that the delivery vehicle stops and proffers the package through an opening in its side. One panel1 would slide back to show the item behind a second, transparent panel2, which would slide back3 so the customer could take their purchase4.

A motorcycle or moped with a side car1 could actually have the cart as the sidecar, which would detach upon arrival2 (with the motorcycle dropping kickstands for stability) to deliver a package away from the roadside or even inside a publicly accessible structure. In the latter case, robotic arms3 and remote oversight4 would be needed at first to navigate most doorways5 (using the same haptic-gloves-and-biofeedback controls employed with humanoid robots). But the cart could be constructed to be solid enough to serve as a sidecar (with its gears in neutral, being propelled by the main vehicle) with three ruggedized wheels and yet light enough to be an acceptable visitor to an office building, front porch or mall in a way that an unridden motorcycle would not. Because this version of the cart would not require a full truck or car engine or need to support a seat and passenger, it could be much lighter than most light-weight, self-powered vehicles, such as an electric bike and rider or occupied velomobile. Also, the cart can be small enough to fit through doors, something impossible for most road-worthy, human-occupied vehicles.

Other vehicles1 could simply tow their cart2 and pass items down a chute3 to it as needed at each stop (the bottom of the chute would be counterweighted4 much like the chutes described above, so that it would drop into the open dome when reloading the cart and stay closed otherwise). While this option for reloading from the primary vehicle is also possible from the motorcycle or moped version, the easiest place to put the bulk of its cargo would be on a bin secured over its seat5. While all of these smaller-vehicle options could be modified to maximize available cargo space, a small SUV with its rear seats folded down or preferably removed would have the most room for deliveries.

With each package sitting in its own bin in the vehicle, the system would have a record of exactly where each one was and could retrieve it and pass it by the same method to the same funneling slides used in the larger trucks discussed above. These would funnel packages into the chute and thence to the delivery cart. Once items were placed in the cart, the chute would detach while the transparent dome clamped shut and the cart would detach from the truck and go to its customer.

Security risks in locations such as DC and other sensitive areas can be easily ameliorated by looping law enforcement into certain standard sensors such as internal cameras and into supplementary ones such as chemical scanners. Depending on the sensitivity of the area and the lengths a company is willing or required to go to, there are already plenty of basic devices that can scan for threats. X-ray scanning can be incorporated along with the laser scanners that double check a product’s identity before loading on the main delivery vehicle1, preferably augmented with automatic object recognition as that software becomes viable. Geiger counters can be included at the same point­2 as well as inside the vehicle. Atmospheric sensors inside the truck3 can draw in air to check for explosives and other known chemical and biological hazards. By granting access4 to this data to relevant law enforcement in the area covered by this local delivery system, the automated system becomes no more vulnerable to being highjacked by terrorists than a conventionally manned operation.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 4