Back to the Futurama with connected vehicles

Jul 22, 2010

A GM-sponsored exhibition at the 1939 New York World’s Fair portrayed a transportation-centric world 20 years hence, complete with vast superhighway networks. Interestingly, GM’s “Futurama” accurately predicted wireless-enabled connected vehicle technologies that are just now — 70 years later — being readied for deployment.

First, have a look at the two-part Futurama video available below, from the 1939 New York World’s Fair Futurama exhibit. Note, in particular, the idea of using wireless communications to enable automatic optimization of traffic efficiency, safety, and driver comfort, at around 6:40 into Part 1 of the Futurama video.

“Traffic moves at unreduced rates of speed [with] safe distance between cars maintained by automatic radio control,” drones the 1939 Futurama narrator. Today, this fundamental Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technology is called “connected vehicles.”

“The keynote of this motorway: safety — safety, with increased speed. This 1960 drama of transportation progress is but a symbol of future progress in every activity, made possible by constant striving toward new and better horizons,” adds the 1939 Futurama narrator.

Futurama video — Part 1:

Futurama video — part 2:

Now that you’ve seen GM’s 1938 Futurama video, check out Intel’s 2010 video showcasing modern-day connected and cooperative vehicle technologies. Cooperative Vehicle Infrastructure Systems (CVIS), says Intel, is a “next generation transportation infrastructure [that] will result in cars and vehicles talking to each other. These connected vehicles will help battle congestion, pollution, and accidents.”

CVIS involves the use of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) wireless communications, in concert with various specialized on-board computing and control devices and capabilities.

Intel’s “Connected Vehicle” video

The similarity between GM’s futuristic concept of connected, cooperative vehicles and the CVIS connected vehicle technology demonstrated in Intel’s video is striking. Except, of course, for the fact that the 70-years-later video is based on actual prototype field demonstrations.

For further information on some of the latest ITS and connected vehicle technologies, visit the websites of the EU’s CVIS project and the U.S. DOT’s Connected Vehicles Research project.


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