Okay – this may not be real but it's one heck of a fake. It's also a great story:
“I first had the vision to build a robot while working as an engineer on the old Mini Coopers in the late 1960s. There were no real robots at the time of course, so it was purely science-fiction. But I always believed a robot would be the most natural complement to the automobile – a full biped, intelligent version having great strength, dexterity and a library of mechanical knowledge. I imagined a robot with the ability to repair vehicles, direct traffic and watch over high-accident crossroads to preempt accidents.
This ambition started to look possible when work began on the new Mini. I've always believed BMW overbuilds many of their parts, so the over-building of certain Mini applications for my robotics use went unnoticed. In 1998, I began tests in a remote location outside Oxford.
In 2000 I thought my formal connection to Mini might be severed when Rover was sold by BMW. Luckily, BMW chose to retain the Mini brand. Subsequently, a few engineers would need to stay in England – Oxford to be exact. I was slated for retirement and was originally from the Oxford area so it raised little suspicion when I offered to stay. From then on, progress was swift.”
You can read the entire “story” along with pics and movies here.
The current speculation is that MINI is somehow behind all of this as a guerrilla marketing tactic. If so it's a pretty amazing job and yet another great idea.