BUFFALO, NY — Car technologies have changed drastically over the years. Here are some of the coolest, cooky-est, and craziest technologies. Some have gone the way of the dodo, and others will never happen.
All this chatter about autonomous cars and flying cars. Let’s take a step back in history and see the promises, cool tech and what may or may not be coming in the future.
Is this a solution in search of a problem.
We’ve been teased with the idea of being able to cruise the skies in our automobiles for decades; flying cars have featured in science fiction since The Jetsons in the 60s and Star Wars in the 70s, and have been central to our vision of the future.
The first attempt at something like a flying car came in 1926, when Henry Ford attempted to build a small, single-seat aeroplane, however he abandoned the idea a couple of years later when a pilot died during a test flight. The closest we’ve come so far is the AeroMobil 3.0, which can be driven like a car on the road, but can easily spread its wings and fly. Still, it doesn’t exactly blend in with normal traffic. A flying car future could still be a thing, but you will need a pilots license.
A Fifth Wheel for Parking
Parking, specifically parallel parking, has frustrated even the best of drivers at various times. Some people who’ve had their license for years cannot parallel park—no matter how big the available space happens to be. Despite the best efforts of driver’s ed teachers everywhere, this still seems to be an issue. Naturally, automotive engineers endeavored to rise to the challenge and solve the problem of parallel parking once and for all. They created a retractable fifth wheel that lowers from beneath a car’s trunk so that drivers can maneuver their car’s rear-end into a parking space. Sounds incredible? It is! Cadillac actually developed this innovation in 1951. Sadly, it proved to be too cumbersome to deploy and retract, was prone to glitching, and generally found to be impractical. Turned out to be much easier for people to just drive around in a parking lot until they found a space where they could comfortably park their car.
The In-Car Toilet
Yes, this is true. In 1947, Cadillac developed a car that was equipped with a toilet in it. A real, working toilet. This innovation was developed to help Cadillac complete the feat of driving over non-stop. And while this was a stunt, the idea of outfitting cars with toilets was hotly considered by major automakers in the late 1940s and 1950s. But, while the innovation worked in a concept car for Cadillac, it proved to be horrendous to work in most vehicles. Just finding a place for the toilet inside the car, along with a tank to store the excrement, was difficult. But there were, of course, issues with splashing, spraying and messes, not to mention smells. In the end, it proved to be much easier for motorists to simply pull over at a gas station and use the toilet than to squat in the back of a car. Oh, to think what might have been.
Let’s just get this one out of the way. Note I didn’t say fully autonomous vehicle. Why? Because it will take many more years before a car can drive anywhere, at all times, without human oversight. Will we have cars capable of being fully autonomous in certain circumstances, most likely rural interstates with minimal variables (and no inclement weather). Think early days of cruise control.
Faster-than-light travel and time travel
Within the realm of hard science fiction, we’ve always hoped faster-than-light travel and time travel. I know we are all in a rush, however, there is no rational way we can get to those based on science as we know it today. It breaks too many of the laws of physics. Although it would be very cool and always get you where you want to be on time.
What’s your favorite from the list. Is there anything we missed?