History of Autonomous Technology
C. 1500 LEONARDO DA VINCI’S ROBOTIC CART
Leonardo da Vinci designed a wooden, spring-powered, three-wheeled cart that could move without being pushed or pulled, and steering could be set in advance so the cart could move along a predetermined path.
1868 WHITEHEAD TORPEDO
The Whitehead Torpedo was a game-changer, being able to propel itself underwater, travel several hundred meters, and maintain depth. Torpedo guidance has evolved over the years leading to a wide range of autonomous devices.
1933 MECHANICAL MIKE AIRPLANE AUTOPILOT
Mechanical Mike was a prototype autopilot that was used during a 21,000 KM flight around the world in 1933. Gyroscopes kept track of the plane’s heading and interfaced with the controls to ensure accurate direction.
1945 TEETOR CRUISE CONTROL
Ralph Teetor, a blind inventor and mechanical engineer, fed up with his drivers’ sporadic driving, invented a “speed control device” known today as cruise control.
1961 STANFORD CART
James Adams, a Stanford engineering graduate student, began developing the world’s first self-driving vehicle. Known as The Cart, it was eventually equipped with cameras and programmed to detect and autonomously follow a solid white line on the ground.
1977 TSUKABA MECHANICAL ENGINEERING
Tsukuba Mechanical Engineering Lab in Japan creates the first autonomous, intelligent, vehicle. It tracked white street markers and achieved speeds up to 30 kilometers per hour.
Vamors – CARS THAT SEE 1986
Vamors, originated from German engineer, Ernst Dickmanns, was a 5 tonne Mercedes van equipped with cameras and other sensors, modified with all the necessary controls — steering wheel, brakes and throttle. Vamors made its first autonomous drive in 1986.
1995 GENERAL ATOMICS PREDATOR DRONE
General Atomics’ unmanned Predator drone, which has been self-piloting for over 20 years. Most drones are decked out with various technologies that have now been adapted to cars. These include radars and thermal imaging cameras that enable travel by night.
2013-2004 DARPA CHALLENGES
DARPA, the U.S. Department of Defense’s research arm, sponsored a series of challenges that push autonomous technologies forward. Competitions were held to challenge vehicles to self-navigate pre-determined distances in an allotted time limit.
2010 GOOGLE HITS THE ROAD
The Google Driverless Car program is led by Darpa Grand Challenge alum Sebastian Thrum. Google’s fleet of seven autonomous Toyota Prius hybrids use data from Google Street View coupled with data from cameras, LIDAR and radar to determine the car’s position on a map.
2015 TESLA AUTOPILOT
Tesla sent its cars a software update that suddenly made autonomous driving a reality. The autopilot feature enabled hands-free control for highway driving.
2015 UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN’S MCITY
The University of Michigan’s -32acre Mobility Transformation Center, called Mcity, launched as a world-class test facility for autonomous vehicle technology. Ford became the first automaker to test autonomous vehicles there, and in the harshest environmental conditions imaginable.