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Watch General Motors' Hilarious 1956 Movie on Smart Roads

They figured that by 1976 we'd be driving jet-powered cars guided by glass-towered traffic controllers

1 min read
Watch General Motors' Hilarious 1956 Movie on Smart Roads
Image: King Rose Archives/GM

It’s as fun to laugh at yesterday’s futurism as it is sobering, for today’s futurism may also become the butt of jokes. Take the 1956 GM promotional movie first screened at Motorama, a company show that traveled among major cities throughout the United States.

The too-corny movie was displayed yesterday during a talk by Prof. Alain Kornhauser, director of the transportation program at Princeton University, at RoboUniverse, itself a world-traveling trade show, now visiting New York City. Kornhauser said the footage perfectly illustrates one of the two strands of thought in self-driving cars—the one in which the road does the thinking.

A 1950s family is stuck in traffic and near the 1:50 mark, the teenage son thinks out loud about how driving might be like in another 20 years. Boom! The family’s old Firebird becomes a dual gas turbine-powered speed demon, its driver in quasi-military style radio communication with an “Autoway Safety Authority,” personified by a uniformed director in a glassed-in tower. 

Take a look:

That it all happens to crowds of similarly choreographed cars threading through cloverleaf interchanges in the middle of a desert, complete with rocky prominences straight of a Roadrunner cartoon, is icing on the cake.

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Chinese Joint Venture Will Begin Mass-Producing an Autonomous Electric Car

With the Robo-01, Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely aim for a fully self-driving car

4 min read
A black car sits against a white backdrop decorated with Chinese writing. The car’s doors are open, like a butterfly’s wings. Two charging stations are on the car’s left; two men stand on the right.

The Robo-01 autonomous electric car shows off its butterfly doors at a reveal to the media in Beijing, in June 2022.

Tingshu Wang/Reuters/Alamy

In October, a startup called Jidu Automotive, backed by Chinese AI giant Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely, officially released an autonomous electric car, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition. In 2023, the car will go on sale.

At roughly US $55,000, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition is a limited edition, cobranded with China’s Lunar Exploration Project. It has two lidars, a 5-millimeter-wave radars, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and 12 high-definition cameras. It is the first vehicle to offer on-board, AI-assisted voice recognition, with voice response speeds within 700 milliseconds, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8295 chip.

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