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"Building one space station for everyone was and is insane: we should have built a dozen."
- Larry Niven

Smart Piston Spokes  
  A car that uses a set of pistons that feels and reacts to the surface to move around.  

It got up speed in the first dozen meters, bounding, and then began to clear the tops of mesquite trees. The car moved in a wild series of twists and hissing pounces; it was like being blown through the air like jets. Alex felt the seat's support cells repeatedly catching him, rippling like the flesh of a running animal.

"Look at those wheels now!" Juanita shouted gleefully, pointing. "See, they're not even rolling. Hell. they're not even wheels. The spokes are smart pistons. Feels like a hovercraft, right?"

Alex nodded dumbly.

"We're hovering on computation. The big power drain in this car isn't the engine. It's the sensors and the circuits that keep us from hitting stuff while we jump..."

Alex could tell from the eerie smoothness of the ride that the car never skipped, and never skidded. The intelligent pads at the base of each spoke contacted the earth with a dainty and tentative touch. Then the pistons set themselves firmly and punched up against the diamond hub, lifting the car in repeated, near-silent, precise staccato, faster than the human eye or ear could follow. It was like riding the back of a liquefied cheetah.

From Heavy Weather, by Bruce Sterling.
Published by Bantam in 1994
Additional resources -

Compare to the smart wheels from Snow Crash (1992) by Neal Stephenson and the Camden speedster from Methuselah's Children (1941) by Robert Heinlein.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Heavy Weather
  More Ideas and Technology by Bruce Sterling
  Tech news articles related to Heavy Weather
  Tech news articles related to works by Bruce Sterling

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