My Car Quest

April 16, 2024

The Self-Driving Car Is Almost Here

by Mike –

Self-driving cars, or autonomous cars, have been a dream of dreamers almost since the automobile was invented.

Norman Bel Geddes, the 20th century industrial designer, futurists and pioneer of streamline design said in his 1940 book, Magic Motorways, “These cars of 1960 and the highways on which they drive will have in them devices which will correct the faults of human beings as drivers. They will prevent the driver from committing errors. They will prevent his turning out into traffic except when he should. They will aid him in passing through intersections without slowing down or causing anyone else to do so and without endangering himself or others.”

Streamline car design by Norman Bel Geddes - source: A. Van Dyke

Streamline car design by Norman Bel Geddes – Source: A. Van Dyke

Bel Geddes was the creator of Futurama, a diorama sponsored by General Motors at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, which forecast the future for automobile transportation and was the most popular exhibit at this World’s fair.

Business Week wrote about the 1939 Futurama, and described how the exhibit was filled to capacity at 30,000 people per day who wait “in long queues until they reach the chairs, which transport them to a tourist’s paradise. It unfolds a prophecy of cities, towns, and countrysides served by a comprehensive road system. Somewhere in the rolling davenport a disembodied angel explains the Elysium.”

Concept of self-driven car from the 1950's

Concept of self-driven cars from the 1950’s – Source: original unknown

This 1939 exhibit predicted a future that did not entirely come true by 1960 but some of it did eventually come true and now we are on the threshold of seeing Bel Geddes’ “devices which will correct the faults of human beings as drivers” in some new cars and eventually in all new cars and trucks.

This new technology is exceedingly complex and may take longer to become commonplace than anticipated by the companies working on self-driven cars like Google who has promised that their self-driven car will be available by 2020.

Google self-driven car - Source: Google

Notice the similar shape of the Google self-driven car to the Bel Geddes Streamline Design above – Source: Google

This is the first installment in a series about self-driven cars. Part 2 in here.

Let us know what you think about self-driven cars in the Comments.



The Self-Driving Car Is Almost Here
Article Name
The Self-Driving Car Is Almost Here
Self-driven cars have been envisioned since the early 20th century and may now be close to reality.


  1. Kenneth Phillips says

    A stronger driver licence exam might provide more safety improvement and retain the enjoyment of driving. Did you see the film of the demonstration of the new driverless car that reversed and ran over the camera man?

    • Ken,

      I did not see that film you mention. The obstacles to implementing self-driven cars are more social and legal issues than technology issues. Stay tuned for the other installments on this subject.

  2. David Goodman says

    Car owners and regulators want the latest technologies in their vehicles. And the trend is accelerating . We can see that with the proliferation of ADAS (Advanced Driver Assisted Systems) . e.g.

    Collision and lane departure warnings
    Pedestrian detection
    Automatic breaking
    Adaptive cruise control

    The technology for autonomous cars is here and ready. It is safe and more effective than the average driver. In the not too distant future after an accident, they will ask “if only he had the driverless option on ”

    Personally the convenience of an autonomous car is compelling – like having a chauffeur.

    I am all for having the option to switch to manual, however progress is progress I for one endorse the idea of autonomous vehicles , partly to do with convenience but mainly the world will be a safer place.

  3. I had “Automatic breaking” on the first car i bought in 1970. Broke many times :).

  4. I see the biggest hurdle as not being the technology but the liability. Who is at fault in a accident with a driverless car? The manufacturer, the owner or possibly a third unknown party? I also see hacking as a huge problem since all of these systems are computer based.

  5. Tony Gauntner says

    Mike, This is a subject I have been closely following for 3 years. I agree with you, that it’s social & legal hurdles that must be conqured because we do have the technological challenges already addressed. The government is fully intent on implementing this technology because it will virtually eliminate over 40,000 injuries and fatalities that occur each year. I’m confident that’s been considered in the Obama Care discussions.
    That part sounds great. However, the economic impact has yet to be discussed. Imagine 40,000 less collision repairs, the virtual elimination of replacment sheet metal, paint, body shops and of course the jobs.

    I know suppliers & OEM’s are considering what activities that the passengers could be involved in while being shuttled to their destination and will offer a variety of options to address owners flexible & changing needs. Yes, the future will be very, very interesting.

    • It goes way beyond accidents and repairs imagine the freight system being able to link up like a train, move products 24 hours a day. It would allow the trucks to be set at a optimal fuel efficient speed and then stay there until the destination is reached. The fuel savings would be huge. Anyone traveling across the interstates would be able to do the same thing, less fuel, less braking less wear and tear on the equipment.

      in a way airlines already do this, the pilots fly on autopilot most of the time.

  6. Dave Hall says

    Are you kidding? You’ve lost me now. I can’t believe this was posted on a supposed auto enthusiasts site! Disgusting. Go play with your phones!

    • Dave,

      If you do not like this introduction to the self-driven car then you certainly will not like the rest of the series. The self-driven car was first imagined in the early 20th century (Norman Bel Geddes Magic Motorways was published in 1940 – many years before I was born) and the technology to realize this vision is now available.

      I am a huge auto enthusiasts, I am also an electrical engineer with more than 30 years experience in the semiconductor industry. This technology is coming whether you like it or not.

      As Victor Hugo said, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

    • David Goodman says

      Dave , am trying to fathom what you find disgusting. Is it progress with auto technology you find aborrant ?

  7. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. I cannot understand why anyone would want to give up the freedom of self determination. This is the beginning of the loss of personal freedom. Once all your whereabouts and travels are known, they can and will be controlled. Yes, the technology is coming, but I want no part of it.

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