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Hollywood’s RoboCop Helps Make U.S. Roads Safer During Holiday

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NHTSA's RoboCop commercial in crackdown on drunk driving through New Year's DayRoboCop, the crime-fighting cyborg star of the eponymous 1987 sci-fi film, is helping to make U.S. roads safer from drunk driving this holiday season. As Jonathon Ramsey writes for Autoblog, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is spending $7.5 million for a series of TV commercials starring RoboCop. The ads are part of NHTSA’s “Drive sober or get pulled over” ad campaign that accompanies a heightened police crackdown on drunk drivers through January 1, Ramsey writes.

The movie has been remade, and the new version will arrive in theaters in February. As IMDB describes it, the original version takes place in a crime-ridden Detroit of the future, which is run by a large company. After a policeman named Alex Murphy is killed by a street gang, the company reconstructs his body within a steel shell and names him RoboCop. The 1987 version, directed by Paul Verhoeven, stars Peter Weller as RoboCop.

The 2014 film, also named RoboCop, was directed by José Padilha and stars Joel Kinnaman in the title role. Wikipedia says about the new version that the company that runs Detroit in the film, OmniCorp, “envisions a RoboCop in every city and even more billions for their shareholders, but they never counted on one thing: there is still a man inside the machine pursuing justice.”

The new film also stars Gary Oldman as the scientist who creates RoboCop, Michael Keaton as the villainous CEO of OmniCorp, Samuel L. Jackson as a noted supporter of RoboCop, Abbie Cornish as the wife of policeman Alex Murphy, who in this version was not killed but critically injured in the line of duty by a car bomb. Filming took place in Toronto and other sections of Ontario and also in Detroit, according to Wikipedia.

In a press release mentioning the RoboCop campaign, NHTSA writes about the need for a crackdown on holiday driving:

According to NHTSA’s latest issue of Safety 1n Num3ers, the holiday enforcement on drunk drivers comes at a time of year when crashes involving alcohol increase. Over the past decade, almost two of every five (41 percent) deaths that occur around the New Year’s holiday and the Christmas holiday (37 percent) were alcohol-impaired, compared to 31 percent nationally over the past ten years.

The crackdown runs from December 13 — January 1, 2014, and is supported by $7.5 million in national advertising in TV and radio advertising featuring NHTSA’s ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over’ campaign. The ads are designed to raise awareness and support law enforcement activities in every state in an effort to reduce drunk driving deaths. NHTSA’s Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over message will also be featured in a new public service announcement featuring Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures’ RoboCop, in theaters February 12, 2014.

Here is one of the NHTSA RoboCop crackdown commercials:

In a related news item, Charli Kerns writes in a Dec. 24 article for National Monitor that 16 teams from five countries participated in the Darpa Robotics Challenge (DRC) on the Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida last weekend. The track was staged as a disaster area so that the robots would perform tasks in dangerous environments, a DRC goal. The eight teams with the best scores won $1 million each to further develop their robots for the final round of the competition, to be held in December 2014, in which the top team will win the $2 million grand prize. DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is a U.S. Department of Defense agency responsible for developing new technologies for military use. DARPA’s website says, “Since the very beginning, DARPA has been the place for people with innovative ideas that lead to groundbreaking discoveries.”

Noting that just before the DARPA challenge, Google bought Shaft Inc. and Boston Dynamics, Kerns describes how the real-life RoboCops participated in the competition:

Five of the eight [robo] tasks dealt with moving from point A to point B: climbing a ladder, opening doors, traversing across rough terrain, removing debris, and driving a car through a small obstacle course. The other three were hands-on tasks: turning valves, cutting out a triangle in drywall with a drill.

The total number of points a team can possibly earn is 32. The Shaft Inc. robot [created in Japan] came out in the far lead with a whopping 27 points, with the second place by IHMC Robotics (developed by Boston Dynamics) coming in at 20 points and Carnegie Mellon University’s CMU Highly Intelligent Mobile Platform CHIMP robot placing third with 18 points. The Shaft robot earned “best in task” in four tasks: ladder, hose, terrain and debris.

Here is a video of the winning robot, Shaft:


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