[...] This computer handles the air intake levels, the fuel compression, the injection timing, etc. The human simply turns a wheel and presses pedals. These pedals don't directly control the motor, but tell the computer how much acceleration is desired. Some cars even have sensors that active the brakes and steering if you are about to have a head-on collision. Lets not forget about anti-lock brakes which react based on negative acceleration.
The cars ECU (or whatever you like to call the main control module) and sub-modules like the ABS controller will (ideally) always give the same response for a given set of parameters (like air mass/second, intake air temp, engine temperature, speeder command etc.). Admittedly, there are lots of combinations possible, but you could qualify them into a (very long) table if you wanted - the ECU does nothing autonomous, but just responds to a set of parameters with a predefined output.
Battle 'bots has nothing to do with robots either (apart from the name and the visuals), they're nothing but glorified R/C vehicles or ROV's (Remote Operated Vehicles) and while they may share eg. methods of drive train etc. they are not gonna make up their mind to try a different type of attack or to improve their timing from lessons learned.
Actually, most of the robots build by members of this board aren't real robots either, as you can calculate their behavioral response if you know the inputs to their sensors (like what's gonna happen when it's getting too near a wall).
So, does this mean that I think there should be a full blown AI core aboard to call it a robot?
Not necessarily, but if the 'bot never learns from its mistakes and improves its modus operandi in at least some small way, what's separating it from a ROV?
I'm not saying that Battle 'Bots and other ROV's isn't funny to make, I'm merely giving my definition of what it takes for me to see a vehicle as a real robot.
Anyone may consider taking their ROV's to robot status by making at least a bit of it smarter, by dabbling a little with perhaps an arm or how it detects stuff - training a small network will, over time, yield better results than the best "dumb" filter and using both... The sky's the limit (ABS brakes does not react based on deceleration (what you call negative acceleration), they react on wheel slippage or left/right-differential you may call it and result in maximum deceleration.)
So what really is the difference between robots and cars? As far as I can tell not much.
The average driver (well, even the worst driver really) will be able to make decisions based on something learned in very different situations and apply the actions based on that in less than 1.5s (that's supposed to be the average reaction time, although it differs from ~0.5s to a bit over 2 seconds).
Unfortunately, we humans lack 100% logic thinking and behaviour, especially in critical situations
Let's say you see a car crossing in front of you. Just by looking at it briefly, you have a pretty good idea of how soon it will reach you, based on visuals alone (how fast it apparently increases in size), add to that the sense of hearing (which you know changes in amplitude with the square of the distance - whether you are able to express it or not). This may be stuff you learned as a toddler, watching and listening to your mother, a rolling ball or whatever, that you now apply to a different situation.
Now make a car do this, and even I will call it a robot
Humans can make a single decision based on a multitude of inputs, where some of them may be from past experience, some from the immediate situation and some from A Priori knowledge and what you've learned up to this point in time (whatever it's relevant or not). Gut feeling, subconscious knowledge, 6'Th sense or whatever you wanna call it, is responsible for most of our decisions throughout a day and I'm not saying that we always make the right decisions (just turn on the boob tube for an instant denial of that
), but we do make them and we do make them much faster than you can hope to get any machine to do and that's not gonna change for a very long time, so the difference is... The car has a "bio-controller", but only while you're in it.
Rereading all the crap I just unleashed on your poor eyes, from the top of my tired head, I have to conclude that I presently* think that intelligence is what differentiates a robot from any other vehicle. Further, that I think your question is based on the ROV's, in which case I'll agree, 'cause they're the same, it's just whether the driver is on the inside or the outside and whether the driving is done while it's done or programmatically entered beforehand.
Oh btw. The bicycle gear selector that I'm working on (on and off) will make the gear selector a robot, even though it will maintain a semi-manual selector, mostly for training it and keep it from taking over the world though
Over time, the manual shifting should be a thing of the past (unless my physical condition changes suddenly in some way of course).
I don't see my bicycle as a robot, even if a part of it will be.*) Presently... 'cause it's what I think now, based on what I have learned up until now. Tomorrow, or 3 weeks and 5 minutes from now, I may stumble over some evidence that modifies my present ideas.