"Michael, K.A.R.R is like a loaded gun in the hands of a small child." -Devon Miles.
K.A.R.R. (acronym for Knight Automated Roving Robot) was the Prototype of the car of the future. He was featured in two episodes of the Original Knight Rider Series. In the season 1 episode Trust Doesn't Rust, he was voiced by Peter Cullen. When he returned in the season 3 episode K.I.T.T. vs K.A.R.R., he was voiced by Paul Frees.
Origin and background
K.A.R.R. was the prototype of the car of the future originally designed by Wilton Knight and built by his company Knight Industries. Upon completion of the vehicle, KARR's CPU was installed and activated. However, the programming made the computer potentially dangerous. The project was put on hold and the car was placed in storage until a solution could be found.
Unlike KITT, whose primary directive is to protect human life, KARR was programmed for self-preservation, making him a ruthless and unpredictable threat. He does not appear as streetwise as KITT. He is very naïve and inexperienced, with a child-like perception of the world. This occasionally allows people to take advantage of his remarkable capabilities for their own gain. Despite this, he does ultimately consider himself superior and unstoppable and due to his programming, the villains don't usually get very far. KARR demonstrates a complete lack of respect or loyalty, going so far on one occasion as to eject its driver to save weight and increase its odds of escape.
KARR first appeared in the season one episode "Trust Doesn't Rust", and was so popular with viewers that he was brought back again in the season three episode "K.I.T.T. vs. K.A.R.R.". KARR also appears as the enemy of KITT and his driver Michael Knight in the Knight Rider video game produced by Davilex International under license.
"Trust Doesn't Rust"
Once KITT was constructed, it was presumed that his prototype KARR had been deactivated and dismantled. However, the latter did not occur and KARR was placed in storage and forgotten following the death of Wilton Knight. When two thieves break into the warehouse where KARR is "sleeping", they unwittingly reactivate him, and he escapes.
When the two thieves realize how useful the vehicle could be, they use KARR to go on a crime spree. Michael and KITT are sent to recover KARR before anyone becomes hurt. Fearful of being taken back to storage and certain deactivation, KARR was unwilling to go back to the Foundation, and he flees when Michael and KITT come looking for him. KARR's only weakness was his primary directive of self-preservation, and Michael uses this to his advantage. When KARR threatens to destroy KITT in a head-on collision, Michael plays chicken with him, knowing KARR will veer out of KITT's path in order to protect himself. Unable to stop in time, KARR drives off a cliff and seemingly explodes in the ocean.
"K.I.T.T. vs. K.A.R.R."
KARR was only believed to have been destroyed. he was damaged and ended up buried in the sand on the beach below the cliffs. When the tide goes out, a young couple stumbles upon the partially buried KARR, digs it out and reactivates it. This time, KARR is furious and had only one clear motive: revenge against Michael Knight and KITT.
KARR forces the young couple to disguise him and then drive him around to carry out his plans. In a ravine, KARR challenges Michael and KITT to a final showdown. After releasing the young couple, KARR fires a stolen laser and damages KITT. However, Michael and KITT destroy KARR's laser by reflecting the beam back to the emitter. Damaged, KARR prepares for another attack. KITT and KARR both turbo boost and collide in mid-air. KARR is blown to pieces. Michael and KITT survive the impact; however at the end of the episode, amongst the wreckage, KARR's CPU module is lying undamaged on the ground, with its LED still flickering.
KARR is loaded with special features, most of which could be activated by buttons on panels to either side of the steering wheel or on a console on the ceiling of the interior.
Some of KARR's features include the following:
- Computer AI - The "brain" of K.A.R.R. was the Knight Prototype Microprocessor, the center of a "self-aware" cybernetic logic module that allowed K.A.R.R. to think, learn, communicate and interact with humans. Although the belief that K.A.R.R. was truly sentient was never discussed on the show, K.A.R.R. was fully aware of himself. K.A.R.R.'s reaction time is one nanosecond, and his memory capacity is 1,000 megabits. For the latter, it is uncertain whether or not active RAM or hard drive space was being discussed. KARR's future capacity is unlimited.
- The system could drive the car better than a human operator could.
- He could provide music, video and video games via an in-dash entertainment system.
- The system could drive the car better than a human operator could.
- Molecular Bonded Shell - K.A.R.R. is armored with "Tri-Helical Plasteel 1000 MBS", or Molecular Bonded Shell plating which protects him from almost all forms of conventional firearms and explosive devices. They can only be harmed by heavy artillery and rockets, and even then, the blast usually leaves most of the car's shell intact and only damages internal components. The shell protects every part of the car including the tires. As a result, K.A.R.R. could act as a shield for explosives by driving over bombs and suppressing the blast. A laser is also capable of damaging the alloy, however the shell can only withstand a maximum of 2 shots before being neutralized.
The shell also protects against fire and electricity; however, it is vulnerable to some potent acids and at least one formula was made to completely neutralize the shell. Long exposure to seawater can weaken the shell.
The shell provides a frame tolerance of 223,000 lb (111.5 tons) and a front and rear axle suspension load of 57,000 lb (28.5 tons).
The shell is actually a combination of three secret substances referred together as the "Knight Compound". It was developed by Wilton Knight who entrusted parts of the formula to three separate people. Each individual knows only two pieces of the formula, ensuring that any two of them could make more of the Knight Compound in an emergency situation and that no one person would be able to make it.
- Power System - KARR is powered by the Knight Industries turbojet with modified afterburners and a computer controlled 8-speed turbodrive transmission. Specifications 0–60 mph in .2 seconds, standing to quarter mile 4.286 seconds. Electromagnetic hyper-vacuum disc brakes: 14 foot braking distance (70–0 mph).
- Turbo Boost - K.A.R.R. was equipped with a Turbo Boost capability. The system consisted of a series of rear mounted undercarriage rocket motors, which allowed the car to accelerate to speeds in excess of 200 mph. The rockets could fire both forwards and backwards as needed. The system had one secondary use:
- It could be used to provide power for pushing or pulling heavy objects when necessary.
- Voice Synthesizer - KARR's Voice synthesizer allows K.A.R.R. as well as other similar vehichles logic modules to speak and communicate. Other sounds, such as a police raid to fool criminals or a wild animal's growl, could also be simulated. The Voice Synthesizer "speaks" through the Voice Modulator in the interior of the vehicle. K.A.R.R.'s primary spoken language was English, however by accessing his language module, he could speak fluently in Spanish and French. The module could also be adjusted to give K.A.R.R. different accents.
- Electronic Jamming System - K.A.R.R. has an Electronic Jamming System which consists of three main components: the Electromagnetic Field Generator, Electronic Field Disrupter and the Microwave Ignition Sensor. The system can take control of electronic machines, allowing such diverse activites as cheating at slot machines, breaking electronic locks, scrambling security cameras, and withdrawing money from ATMs. The system was used most frequently to disable the engine and activate the brakes on a fleeing vehicle.
- Anamorphic Equalizer - The equalizer device is a fiber-optic array of electronic "eyes". The scanner could see in all visual wavelengths as well as X-Ray and infrared. When K.A.R.R.'s surveillance mode was active, the bar would light up and make an ominous swooping sound as it panned left and right. Occasionally, the bar pulsed in different patterns and swept either rapidly or very slowly. It is possible to disable K.A.R.R.'s electronics by penetrating the equalizer with a laser making this one of his few vulnerabilities.
- Etymotic Equalizer - This system allowed KARR to hear sounds. An array of audio sensors were threaded throughout his interior and exterior.
- Olfactory Sensor - KARR could "smell" via an atmospheric sampling device mounted in his front bumper.
- Microscanners - Microscanners are tiny audio and visual sensors embedded into the grooves of KARR's body. They allow for visual tracking and display of anything around the car.
- Cruise Modes - These are KARR's three drive modes:
- Normal Cruise - On "Normal", The pilot had control of the car. In an emergency, KARR could still take over and activate Auto Cruise mode. In order to prevent this, one has to use the Manual Override.
- Auto Cruise - In "Auto", KARR could drive himself utilizing an advanced Auto Collision Avoidance system.
- Pursuit - "Pursuit" is used during high-speed driving and is a combination of manual and computer assisted operation. KARR could respond to road conditions faster than the Pilot's reflexes could; however, the pilot was technically in control of the vehicle and KARR helped guide certain maneuvers.
- Manual Override - KARR has a function which can be activated in order to completely lock the AI from all the vehicle controls. Manual Override simply keeps KARR from activating Auto Cruise or preventing anyone inside the car from doing something that would probably hurt him. KARR's AI is still able to protest such actions vocally.
- Oil Jets/Smoke Screen - KARR could spray an oil slick and a plume of smoke from under the rear bumper.
- Flame Thrower - KARR has flame throwers mounted under his bumpers.
- Telephone Comlink - The pilot could contact home base and communicate with F.L.A.G. and others using KARR's video display.
- Surveillance Mode - Surveillance Mode did several things:
- KARR could detect people and vehicles and track their movements and discern proximity.
- KARR could gather structural schematics of buildings, vehicles, or other devices and help The pilot avoid potential danger when he was snooping.
- KARR could also monitor radio transmissions and telephone communications within a location and trace those calls.
- KARR could tap into computer systems to monitor, or upload and download information as long as he could break the access codes.
- Infrared Tracking Scope - KARR could monitor the position of specific vehicles in the area within 10 miles. For instance, if the pilot wanted to know the location of every police vehicle within 5 miles, KARR could display a schematic on his monitors of all police vehicles relative to his position.
- Laser Powerpack - KARR can fire a high powered ultra-frequency modulated laser capable of burning through steel plating. Like most of KARR's components, the schematics for the laser device are classified.
- Deflatable Tires - KARR could deflate and reinflate his tires.
- Fuel Processor - KARR was powered by a turbine engine primarily fueled by hydrogen gas. However, his complex fuel processor allows him to run on any combustible liquid, even regular gasoline. KARR's actual fuel requirements and efficiency ratings were classified, However, when operating on fuels other than liquid hydrogen, KARR's fuel efficiency and power output may be lowered.
- Self-Tinting Windows - KARR's windows could darken to opacity for various situations.
- Voice Stress Analyzer - KARR can process spoken voices and determine if someone may be lying..
- Auto Doors, Sunroof, and Trunklid - KARR could automatically open and close his doors and T-tops. He could also lock his doors to prevent unauthorized entry into his driver compartment. He could also open his hood automatically.
- Rotating License Plate - KARR can rotate his blank license plate to reveal a fictitious one reading "KARR".
- Seat Ejection System - KARR had two front ejection seats, mostly used when the pilot needed a boost to fire escapes or building roof tops.
- Video Display Monitors - KARR had two Cathode ray tube video display monitors on his dash for various readouts. They are controlled by two systems, the Graphic Translator (which sketches likenesses from verbal input) and the Anamorphic Equalizer (which gathered visual information from KARR's front scan bar) and microscanners.
- Computer Print Out - KARR could print hard copies of data on a dashboard-mounted printer.
- Fire Extinguisher - KARR could put out small fires from a CO2 sprayer in his bumpers.
- Interior Oxygenator - KARR could release oxygen into his driver compartment and provide air to passengers if he was ever submerged in water or buried in earth.
- Two-Wheel Ski Drive - The Ski Mode setting allowed KARR to "ski" (driving up on two wheels).
- Vacuum - KARR could expend all breathable air from the driver compartment,
KARR's production changes
Originally, KARR appeared identical to KITT, with a red light scan bar, and the only physical difference was a yellow LED voice modulator on his dash (KARR's voice modulator was the prototype for the one seen on KITT in the later seasons). When KARR returns in "K.I.T.T. vs. K.A.R.R.", KARR's scan bar was now a yellow hue.
KARR later gets a two-tone paint job incorporating a silver lower body into his familiar all-black finish. KARR's scanner made a droning noise in his first episode, but in the later episode it sounds similar to KITT's with a slight reverb audio effect added to it. The sound of KARR's engine, originally rough and "fierce", later sounds similar to KITT's, again affected by a reverb. In "Trust Doesn't Rust," KARR had no license plate. In KARR's later appearance, he had a California license plate that read "KARR."
KARR's personality was different in the later episode. His child-like perceptions are diminished into a more devious personality, completely cold, and bent on revenge. His self-preservation directive was no longer in play when KARR is close to exploding after receiving severe damage: he willingly turbo-jumps into a mid-air collision with KITT hoping that his own destruction would also spell his counterpart's. Even KARR's modus operandi was different. Serviceful enough in the first episode, he now aims to actually make use of other persons, anyone, to serve his own needs.
One explanation of this change could be as a result of the damage he received after falling over the cliff at the end of "Trust Doesn't Rust", which disrupted his programming; Indeed, KITT himself is seen to malfunction and suffer change of personality as a result of damage in several other episodes.
- In Trust Doesn't Rust, K.A.R.R. checks basic human desires by querying an internal pre-loaded database, a parallel to the actual Wikipedia:Cyc project.
- In Trust Doesn't Rust, the voice of K.A.R.R. was provided by voice actor Peter Cullen, better known as the voice of Optimus Prime in the The Transformers cartoon series. In K.I.T.T. vs K.A.R.R., K.A.R.R. was voiced by Paul Frees, best known as the voice of Ludwig Von Drake in the popular anthology series, Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. Frees was uncredited on-screen for his role, leading Peter Cullen to sometimes be wrongly credited as providing K.A.R.R.'s voice in this episode.
- The creators gave K.A.R.R. a three bar LED voice display. Midway through Season One (from the episode Hearts of Stone), K.I.T.T. was given a three bar LED of his own (previously his voice display had been a flashing red square). K.I.T.T.'s "voice bars" were red and all appeared from the middle of the display; K.A.R.R.'s were yellow, and the outer two bars protruded from the top and bottom.
- It is never explained how K.A.R.R. survived the seemingly fatal explosion at the conclusion of Trust Doesn't Rust. The only apparent damage that the vehicle sustained was a dislodged socket under the dashboard and disruption to the mysterious Alpha Circuits which are mentioned several times throughout the show. Bonnie explains in season one's Deadly Maneuvers that the Alpha Circuits on K.I.T.T. can only be damaged by doing something stupid, for example towing another vehicle. K.A.R.R. storms the Foundation's Mobile Semi in search of these Alpha Capacitors in K.I.T.T. vs K.A.R.R.
- K.A.R.R. is parodied in the Adult Swim television series Stroker and Hoop; the duo drive a computerized talking vehicle named C.A.R.R., although he is not evil and depicted in a more comical role.
- In the video game Knight Rider the Game 2 K.A.R.R. is allied with Garthe Knight.