The Thrill Is Gone

Driver­less cars may de­liver many ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing fewer traf­fic ac­ci­dents. But will they be any fun?

BC Business Magazine - - Off Lıne - by Steve Burgess

The Jan­uary 1958 is­sue of the Ra­dio Corp. of Amer­ica’s Elec­tronic Age magazine was hi­tand-miss in its pre­dic­tions. The wide­spread avail­abil­ity of colour tele­vi­sion worked out as fore­cast. But “Ra­dio via Me­teor Trails?” This was a story claim­ing sci­en­tists were bounc­ing ra­dio waves off the ion­ized par­ti­cles left be­hind by me­te­ors en­ter­ing the at­mos­phere, for some odd rea­son. Ei­ther this idea never bore fruit, or it’s still so top se­cret that sin­is­ter men in dark suits are go­ing to be knock­ing on my door and drag­ging me away within the next few min­utes.

Yet an­other ar­ti­cle in the magazine gushed that RCA was build­ing a mi­crowave ra­dio net­work for the gov­ern­ment of Cuba. Un­for­tu­nately, this fear­less fore­cast of to­mor­row failed to pre­dict the over­throw of the Cuban gov­ern­ment by Fidel Cas­tro’s guer­ril­las ex­actly one year later, on Jan­uary 1, 1959. There’s prob­a­bly a dra­matic story yet to be told of RCA en­gi­neers flee­ing in lit­tle boats over­loaded with mi­crowave trans­mit­ters.

But one sci-fi pro­jec­tion in that 1958 magazine may ac­tu­ally be tak­ing shape—the driver­less car. Elec­tronic Age re­vealed that RCA was testing driver­less cars on closed tracks even then, us­ing cir­cuitry em­bed­ded in the pave­ment and road­side sen­sors. Else­where a 1957 magazine ad from “Amer­ica’s In­de­pen­dent Elec­tric Light and Power Com­pa­nies” showed a fam­ily rac­ing down the high­way

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