Since the early 19th century we have seen transportation take many grand leaps forward. In every type of transportation system, we have seen the shift towards autonomous vehicles. Steam trains were invented in the 1800’s and they were motorized carts guided by tracks laid on the ground. This allowed for transportation over long distances with minimal required assistance. It can be seen as the first step towards autonomous and semi-autonomous driving. Once you get a train up to speed you can just kick back until you reach your destination. This was influential in the development of autonomous vehicles. People want to arrive feeling rested at their destination, not like felt like they drove 100 miles. The train could offer for many people a continuous trip to their destination without having to drive themselves. Convenience is important when people are looking for a way to travel. Another influential part of the development of autonomous vehicles was autopilot in airplanes.  In 1933, Wiley Post was the first person to fly solo around the world but it may not have been possible without autopilot. He was able to navigate while the plane flew autonomously. This idea is similar to the idea of developing autonomous vehicles. Imagine hopping in the car, setting your destination, and then relaxing your way to your next stop. That is what autonomous vehicles are being designed to do. Similar to the airplane autopilot, autonomous vehicles seemed to be designed with airplanes in mind.  They can be set to autopilot where the driver can let go and relax making it very convenient. We see autopilot used in every airplane these days and now we will start to see cars made exactly the same way. Since it was so hard to make autonomous vehicles, automated highways became a central idea to autonomous driving. Smart cars on smart highways would take people to their destination similar to the train. In the 1950’s, GM and RCA developed radio controlled cars that used magnets to track a steel cable in the road. Although it was only a prototype this idea was mimicked in the way autonomous vehicles work today. They seem like they are controlled the same way. Instead, autonomous vehicles have many sensors allowing them to navigate over long distances without the need for cables or tracks. However, there are many organizations working on developing smart cars and highways that we will see very soon become a part of our everyday lives. According to Brodsky (2016), autonomous vehicles became popular because “ninety percent of car accidents are caused by human error” (p. 852). Many believe accidents will decrease rapidly once they are fully tested and implemented. But looking back through the history of what influenced autonomous vehicles is pretty interesting. Before cars became autonomous the ideas were being used in other fields. Either taken entirely or just parts of past technologies are what helped bring about this rapid change to vehicles. Now they must make it perfect and I expect that they will find a way to whether it be because of old ideas or entirely new ones.


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