Set your way back machine to 1956, boys and girls, and let’s travel back in time to 1956. Eisenhower was in the White House (when he wasn’t playing golf). Construction of the interstate highway system had just begun. Cars had tail fins and looked like jet fighters. Transistor radios were everywhere and people flocked to shows like the General Motors Motorama that showcased the automotive wonders the future had in store.
That was the year engineers at General Motors unveiled their vision of a future in which cars drove themselves on dedicated highways. Similar to air traffic controllers, humans in towers built alongside the road every 20 miles or so would issue instructions about speed and direction to the cars using wires embedded in the roadway. Instructions from the control towers would eliminate congestion and keep us all safe on our journeys.
The idyllic future was embodied in the Firebird II, a finned and frothy design that included such technological marvels as an onboard orange juice maker. It was powered by a gas turbine and was the first car ever constructed of titanium. The Firebird II was featured in a recent episode of Jay Leno’s garage.