Heinlein Controlways Predicted By Kiwi Profs

In his wonderful 1941 story Methuselah's Children, Robert Heinlein made every weary driver's fantasy come true.

The car slid up the ramp, waited until the traffic control signaled a predicted break in traffic, then joined the high-speed northbound stream. Mary Risling settled back for a little nap...

She woke just before the signal from the car which would have called her... She signaled the traffic control ahead; it cut her out of the stream of vehicles and reduced the speed of her car, then rang the alarm which notified her to resume local control.
(Read more about Heinlein's controlway - an automated road)

New Zealand professors John Tiffin and Chris Kissling have argued that this sort of future is now attainable - and not too far off. In their book Transport Communications, to be published in November of this year, they set out a program by which roadways and other forms of transportation can be integrated and automated.

"Putting intelligence into roads so they drive cars rather than the other way round is perfectly feasible and is one of the most immediate possibilities the book suggests."

The speed at which cars travel and the flow of traffic would be controlled by a central system in the same way an air traffic control center manages aircraft.

"It is not a giant step because artificial intelligence is gradually taking over in transport and it makes sense to have one system rather than relying on all the different drivers," Professor Tiffin said.

"Planes already travel on autopilot and cars have lots of computers which tell the driver to slow down, buckle up or change the oil."

I just ran across a very early reference to the idea that a car could talk to a driver and provide important information; see the entry on the talking speedometer from 1941 short story by Theodore Sturgeon.

Via New Zealand Herald.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/28/2007)

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