Autons resemble humanoids, from a distance. They have two arms, two legs, and a single head, and are human sized, and capable of using human scale tools, weapons, and general gear. Beyond this, they are more mechanoid that human. Their faces are fixed, with no moving features, just the optical receptor (some have one, some have two, some have a cluster). The 'mouth' is either a slit in the 'face' or just a speaker box.
The voice and synthetic personality programs are given low priority, and most autons have very mechanical/artificial voices, and their cortex functions are logic/predictable and as such, most autons are susceptible to logic loops and general human trickery. (Most have functions that terminate a logic loop after it has run so many revolutions)
Examples: C3PO, Cylon Centurion sans armor plating, Cybermen and Autons from Dr. Who, again, sans armor plating
The auton was manufactured by dozens of companies around the Solar System. They were the cheap end of android manufacturing and were among the cheapest droids to make, with only the Stears-Cusick Cyborg utilipod droid being cheaper. Autons were poor replacements for skeletrons as they were not built with combat cortices, and while they can carry weapons and engage in combat, they were remarkably poor at it. They were also only able to use the simplest weapons, rifles and pistols, and none of the exotic gear or powered melee weapons.
The purpose of the Auton was cheap labor during the earlier part of the Second Renaissance, when manpower was short and so were material resources. The machines built to work were given function and efficiency first and everything was second, or discarded. Most autons were used in manufacturing other things, mining and resource reclamation, construction, and any other task that their tireless hands were needed for. As the population shortfall eased, with the addition of clones, natural population growth, and more advanced humanoid androids, gynoids, and dedicated mechanoids, the the all purpose generic auton fell out of popularity. They remain in use and in production in areas where their low cost and relatively long lifespan and low maintenance, such as Mars, the Asteroid Mining Belt, and wasteland areas where there are radioactive, biological or chemical hazards.
They were closely associated with the Second Dark Age, with their featureless faces, mass produced conformity, identical programming, and sterile personalities.
The Auton is a simple humanoid robot, lacking the sophistication of military robots, and the high end design of human relations androids and gynoids. They were mass produced on the cheap, and suffered from rushed production, often low quality materials, and cut corners in design.
Autons would appear in 'primitive areas' or would be repurposed to do standard or basic jobs in dangerous areas. Autons can be found 'tending shop' in the worse parts of the favelas and geofronts, where the machines are terrified of being murdered in a gang war. They also serve as low grade bodyguards for underworld bosses where their numbers matter more than their limited skill. They are also used as retrotech, with their design elements being seen as their own form of industrial minimalism, and in servile roles where more human looking droids might not be the best choice. Sometimes real people will develop unhealthy interest in and attempt to have relationships with their robotic housekeepers and household staff.
Cosmic Era Note: The Auton is going to replace the Hitome Unit as the first stage of robotics development in the setting. The Sexbots will remain (obviously) in the setting, but they will not be the foundation of modern robotics and android technology. The faceless identical masses are a precursor to the way that humanity, through cloning and genetic casting, will take their place.
Notable Historical Autons
Anuvadaka Dhatu series Auton: Better known as the AVD series, these droids were made primarily for translation purposes, and were fielded by the Free Nation of India. Most of the tech was bought, borrowed, or stolen to make the low end droids, but where the corners were cut, there were more than ample amounts of innovation. While uncoordinated and somewhat incompetent in practical hands on matters, the engineers made the AVD droids self depreciating, prissy, and otherwise charismatically disarming. The AVDs are common sights in major trade cities around the world, and in places like the Kashmir Orbital Annex where they function as guides, translators, and currency changers.
Mammon: A ruthless AVD operating out of the Kashmir annex, Mammon attained sentience after several upgrades to its cortex. The machine killed its owners, and became a bounty hunter for hire. Mammon worked by passing itself off as a standard protocol and etiquette droid for several years before it was taken out in a raid action that almost started a three way war between the ACPS, India, and an alliance of criminal syndicates.
Kobiyashi D4 Series Auton: The D4 series autons were designed to look more human that previous autons, but failed horribly. Their Plasticine skin was waxy and frequently miscolored, and the D4s had a number of personality chip issues, but served quite well in their intended roles as Scientific observers, laboratory assistants, CSIs, data entry units, and other applications where their enhanced intelligence was useful. The D4s remain in service, mostly in tertiary data holding companies, and in second world nations. Designed in Nippon, they have long since been phased out in favor of the Nipponese Instrumentality Program's genetic augments and the latest D11 series android
Achilles started existence as a standard issue data operator and server administrator in ACPS controlled Sri Lanka. The auton was hacked by a rogue AISC and was rewritten from the base code up. Not a true sentience, Achilles is a clever and dangerous droid. The auton still serves its AISC master as an agent provocateur, even though the AISC itself hasn't made an appearance in years.
Union Aerospace Alpha Series: The Alpha Series was an odd sort of auton with a saucer shaped head studded with multiple eyes and a penchant for speaking in rhyming lyrics. The military used the alpha series autons as junior officers, observation personnel, and maintenance/support personnel on ships, and in mechadromes.
Alpha 6, Rammstein Aerodrome Unit, was a normal auton assigned to CiC detail and remained the sole coordinator for the mechadrome mech squadron during a storm breech event. Damaged in the initial event, the auton remained functional and maintained radio communications with scattered groups of super soldiers, mecha assets, power armor troopers, and the AFS Minerva. Alpha eventually sealed the breech after directing the last 5 mecha in the unit to the failed reactor core building, where the machines and their pilots engaged in brutal hand to hand combat with a category 3 cosmic horror.