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"[Science fiction is] nightmares and visions, always outlined by the barely possible."
- Gregory Benford

Bubble Car  
  Self-steering, hovering, this is the car of the future.  

The novel, in fact, takes place far into the future. The protagonist Corbel has awakened to find the future very different from anything he expected.

She gestured him ahead of her, toward a bubble-car like those he had found in One City. Where his feet fell big insects fled, whirring.

The car seemed to rest on the very tips of the grass blades. It did not shift as Corbell climbed in. Mirelly-Lyra gestured to him to slide over... and climbed in beside him. She bent to the console, hesitated, then punched in numbers. "We go for your pressure suit," said the translator at her belt.

The car moved smoothly away. Mirelly-Lyra half relaxed; she was not steering. Already, Corbell knew that he could not return by car. He didn't know the destination number of the house.

Down the hill and into a narrow valley the car drove, accelerating. Now they were moving at hellish speed. Corbell gripped a padded bar on the dashboard and wished he dared close his eyes.

She was studying him. "You did not use such cars?"

"No." Inspiration made him say, "We didn't have such things on Dogpatch."

From A World Out of Time, by Larry Niven.
Published by Random House in 1976
Additional resources -

The bubble cars present a uniquely individualized answer to the problems of mass transit. No one needs directions; you only need to know the code number for the place you are going. The car (and the network that operates it) knows exactly where it is going and the best route to get there. You don't need to steer at all.

Compare to the automatic automobile from David H. Keller's 1935 story The Living Machine.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from A World Out of Time
  More Ideas and Technology by Larry Niven
  Tech news articles related to A World Out of Time
  Tech news articles related to works by Larry Niven

Bubble Car-related news articles:
  - ULTra - driverless automatic taxi
  - SkyTran's Sky Pod MagLev Taxis
  - Google Autonomous Electric Car Prototype Unveiled
  - WEpod Driverless Vehicle On The Netherlands Roads
  - California Proposes Ban On Driverless Vehicles

Articles related to Transportation
Griff 300 Octocopter Carries You And Friend
British Airways To Offer An Ingestible Sensor To Passengers
Vahana, The Airbus Flying Taxi
Hi-Yo Modobag! Away!

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