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"The point sticks in your head: physics rules. Virtue does not triumph unless the physics allows it."
- Larry Niven

Steel Tortoise  
  An all-terrain vehicle, grandfather to the four-wheeler.  

I like the term and the device. It is interesting to note how it is designed to be essentially free of any additional stuff - doesn't need gas, doesn't need maintenance, doesn't have parts designed to be replaceable like tires, and so forth.

He turned and commenced loading his steel tortoise. Under the romantic influence of the classic literature of a bygone day he had considered using a string of burros, but had been unable to find a zoo that would sell them to him...

The vehicle he had chosen was not an unreasonable substitute for burros. It was extremely rugged, easy to operate, and almost foolproof. It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof. These drove a constant- load motor, or, when halted, replenished the storage battery against cloudy weather, or night travel. The bearings were 'everlasting', and every moving part, other than the caterpillar treads and the controls, were sealed up, secure from inexpert tinkering.

It could maintain a steady six miles per hour on smooth, level pavement. When confronted by hills, or rough terrain, it did not stop, but simply slowed until the task demanded equaled its steady power output.

The steel tortoise gave MacKinnon a feeling of Crusoe- like independence.

From Coventry, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Not Known in 1940
Additional resources -

I really think there is a future for a device like this. If you are exploring or trekking, you don't really care how fast you're going. The fact that you are completely free of filling stations gives a remarkable dimension to the vehicle.

On the other hand, you might want to check the entry for sunpower screen. With today's technology, this baby might have more power than you think - a tortoise that could beat the hare fair and square.

For an alternative power source on a similar vehicle, be sure to check out the power-wagon, a creation of Jack Vance in The Last Castle.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Coventry
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Heinlein
  Tech news articles related to Coventry
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Heinlein

Steel Tortoise-related news articles:
  - Cool Robots At Dartmouth (And Greenland)
  - Who First Thought About Solar Powered Cars?
  - REX Infantry Robotic Porter Follows Soldiers

Articles related to Vehicle
Cruise Automation's 'Highway Autopilot' For $10K
myCopter Personal Aerial Vehicle (PAV)
Spam Autonomous Cars And Philip K. Dick
Toyota's Camatte Has William Gibson's Digital Hood

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