Key to the Future

“For the 1956 Motorama auto show, General Motors produced this musical short, “Key to the Future,” which predicted self-driving cars in the far-off future of 1976.”

I’d not seen this one before. To say things have changed would be an understatement to the extreme. 

  1. I’ve seen clips from it but not the whole shebang. Ah, for the Fifties!
    The Firebird II still looks good but those cowl scoops! They were a disaster!
    Michael Kidd of course was the director for the Motorama shows,

  2. Fotios

    Incredible they produced such a video 70 years ago!

  3. Glen Durmisevich

    Back then the future was full size slot cars. When autonomous driving relied on road infrastructure which is one reason it didn’t happen. Now it’s all self contained in the ultra complex vehicle electrical architecture.

  4. James E. (Jed) Duvall

    Can anyone imagine the cost of keeping the road infrastructure for autonomous driving in repair every time there’s a pothole or the need for repaving the interstate ? In Indiana, there has been a long-time debate over compensating local governments road funding on total lane miles (which screws over urban areas) versus road distance within county lines. Meanwhile Indiana’s state gasoline tax increases almost every month ! I cannot recall if the G.M. EPCOT “World of Motion” exhibit featured road infrastructure or radar navigation: I believe it was navigation by radar.

  5. Jason Houston

    Prepare to enter the high speed lane! Whoooosh… “Look out, Dad! You’re going almost 30 miles an hour!”

  6. William C. Warner

    Firebird III had the same concept and sensors.

  7. Clark Lincoln

    Wow, far out, man! I did a similar design project during my senior year. That was 1962.

  8. Tom Kelly

    Filmed at the General Motors Desert Proving Grounds which at the time were just east of Williams AFB. AFB was their overhead cover. When base closed in ‘95 and became Mesa Gateway Airport, PG did not last much longer. Overhead security was gone. PG closed early 2000’s. Now that desert landscape you see is overrun with 30-40,000 homes and industrial. More to the story.

  9. Norman Gaines Jr.

    A “self-driving car” isn’t a car, it is a conveyance. It is also evidence of the relentless dumbing down of our world, where the standard is “let someone else do the thinking.”

    Contrary to the leftest narrative, some of us actually enjoy driving, aren’t convinced that technology is fool-proof, and still prefer a manual transmission. Even in traffic.—Gary

  10. I’ll go Norm Gaines one better. A “self-driving” car isn’t a conveyance. It’s an appliance.

    Elon Musk’s fanboys and fangirls have bought wholeheartedly into this dangerous, life-threatening threat in which every driver on the road is taking part in a nationwide, unregulated beta test. What could possibly go wrong?

    Besides reclothing a vehicle as an appliance, Musk is forcing these appliances into robotic colorways of snow white, black, neutral grays and stainless steel. We’re seeing “luxury vehicle” being recast into interiors with Flatscreen IPs, shelves, seats with nary a concession to luxury themes, total lack of buttons, big gaps hidden by 30mm wide EPDM extrusions, door panels with no visual interest, and so on. Calling acres of boring, sculpted monochromatic plastic “luxury” is an attempt to redefine cheap as luxury to justify high price points.

    I have owned REAL luxury cars, both new and vintage. Tesla does NOT manufacture “luxury” cars.

    The whole deal smacks of tech dictatorship with a huge cult following. Where will it end?

    Considering that it is dangerous to text and drive, how come it’s OK to have the only interface to control the vehicle’s systems is a flat screen with zero tactile feedback located in the middle of the IP?—Gary

  11. Greg B.

    Just FYI: the video is not viewable if you are in Canada (or I presume anywhere outside of the USA).

  12. David W. Temple

    Norman Gaines, Jr. and Paul Wilczynski, Sr. I fully agree with your statements about the self-driving car… I mean appliance. I HATE the idea, though there have been times I would have liked to flip a switch to let a computer drive my car while I rested for a little while – but not for the entire trip. I managed, though, without that switch. We are on course to have people be nothing more than non-thinking shells because some machine will do everything. (Reminds me of the song, “In the Year 2525.”) There is one flip-side to consider. A self-driving appliance would be good for disabled people who otherwise would have to always depend on someone else for transportation. What are your thoughts on that?

  13. I did a self driving lawnmower when in school. With a wire buried under the lawn. Now it would have to be electric.

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