This 1971 news video predicted the rise of self-driving cars

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Stories about driverless cars are everywhere these days. Uber and Google are investing heavily in self-driving technology, lawmakers are fretting over the policy implications of roads filled with driverless cars, and the University of Michigan built an entire mini-city to test autonomous vehicles.

But a newly released video from the British Movietone, a newsreel archive service, shows that the idea of self-driving cars has been around for a long time.

In 1971, the UK's Road Research Laboratory showed off an early prototype of a self-driving car. In the clip, a car's steering wheel is shown adjusting itself shakily.


"Look, no hands! And no driver, for that matter," the narrator says, explaining that the car is capable of steering itself through "computerized electronic impulses relayed to the car through a special receiving unit fixed to the front."

The video concludes: "Researchers say that robot cars may well be in everyday use within 30 years."

That would mean that, according to 1971's expectations, scientists are 14 years behind schedule in ushering in the everyday use of driverless cars. Then again, the ones we have now look a lot better than these.

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