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"In 1970 I found little difficulty staying 30 years ahead of the man in the street, and now I find it difficult to stay 18 months ahead of the man on the street."
- Vernor Vinge

Teleoperated Beetle Car  
  A remotely-operated robotic vehicle that permitted telepresence.  

Supervising the construction of a vast structure - the Bridge - in the depths of Jupiter's atmosphere is not a task for human beings. Instead, tele-operated "beetle cars" were used for inspection.

The scanner on the foreman's board was given 114 as the sector where the trouble was...

With a sigh, Helmuth put the beetle into motion. The little car, as flat-bottomed and thin through as a bedbug, got slowly under way on its ball-bearing races, guided and held firmly to the surface of the Bridge by ten close-set flanged rails. Even so, the hydrogen gales made a terrific siren-like shrieking between the vehicle and the deck...

While they shook the structure of the Bridge heavily, they almost never interfered with its functioning. And could not, in the very nature of things, do Helmuth any harm.

Helmuth, after all, was not on Jupiter - though that was becoming harder and harder for him to bear in mind. Nobody was on Jupiter...

From Helmuth's point of view - that of the scanners on the beetle - almost nothing could be seen of [the Bridge]...

He took the automatic cut-out of the circuit and inched the beetle forward on manual control...

Helmuth grunted involuntarily and backed the beetle away.. Helmuth turned the body of the vehicle 180 degrees on its chassis... There was nothing further that he could do at the moment for the Bridge. He searched his control board - a ghost image of which was cast on the screen across the scene on the Bridge - for the blue button marked Garage, punched it savagely, and tore off his foreman's helmet.

Obediently, the Bridge vanished.

From Cities in Flight, by James Blish.
Published by Avon in 1957
Additional resources -

Compare to the telepresence bulldozer in Oath of Fealty, a 1981 novel by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Cities in Flight
  More Ideas and Technology by James Blish
  Tech news articles related to Cities in Flight
  Tech news articles related to works by James Blish

Teleoperated Beetle Car-related news articles:
  - NASA's Robotic Rover Drivers

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