How do you kill time when you’re stuck in a traffic jam? You could try to catch up on your email, play a game on your phone, or meditate. Or you could try transporting yourself 20 years into the future by adjusting your radio dial.
That’s what happens in this 1956 video from General Motors. A quintessential 1950s family, after hearing a cheery musical traffic update with dismal news, are somehow propelled into 1976, where their gas turbine car drives itself, thanks in part to a radio operator who feeds it navigation info from afar.
Retro-futurism is often compelling because of how amusingly wrong its predictions are. But while this one misses the timing by several decades, it’s actually pretty prescient. Turbine engines didn’t work out, but Google has been testing its autonomous cars for a few years now, and dedicated lanes for self-driving vehicles sound like a perfectly reasonable idea if the time ever comes that we need them.
But self-driving cars have been a dream as long as cars have existed, if not longer. The most striking feature of the video is the dispatcher. As Jalopnik’s Patrick George points out, his services are not unlike those offered by GM’s OnStar.
OK, so your OnStar live advisor is probably someone juggling several customers in a call center, not a dedicated person in a spacious office who has time to sing songs with you as you cruise down the road. But we can always dream.