Autonomous Vehicles, Smart Highways were Being Developed in the 1960s

In an article in The Michigan Daily, dated July 15, 1961, titled ‘Electronic Wonder: State Seeks Highway‘, we read:

Michigan is in the running for selection as the site of the world’s first electronic highway.  The main stretch under consideration is US-23 from Ann Arbor to Toledo.  An electronic brain would control the cars on such a highway.  The driver might travel with no hands on the wheel while gadgets controlled the car.  The other possibility for the highway’s design is that of hoisting the cars on electronically controlled platforms.

The article continues:

Advisers have told the Kennedy Administration that the automatic highway is technologically feasible.  It has been the subject of private industry and university research.

What we see in this article:

  • An ‘electronic brain’ controlling vehicles
  • Hand’s free, autonomous driving.
  • A smart highway for self-driving vehicles

The article describes this highway as ‘high priority’:

A committee of experts will submit recommendations to Secretary of Commerce Luther H. Hodges, for approval, after which they will be submitted to Congress.  The [Kennedy] Administration has indicated that the project has high priority status.  The tentative proposal calls for a 100-mile stretch of highway – possibly between two major cities, but including rural area.  An estimated $50 million would be spent on the first phase of the experimental program.  The State Highway Department is also considering as tentative routes Interstate 75 from Detroit to Toledo, US-131 south from Kalamazoo, US-127 south from Jackson and US-27 from below Lansing.

Note: The Michigan Daily is the campus newspaper of the University of Michigan.  Was this ‘electronic highway’ a subject of U of M research back then?

The Michigan Daily archive:

Google archive:,352492&hl=en

Here are some more articles:

  • New York Times, Dec 11, 1966: ‘Driverless Auto Being Developed; Could Be Ready in 15 Years, Ohio Researcher Says’.  (subscription required)
  • The Electronic Highway: How 1960s Visionaries Presaged Today’s Autonomous Vehicles:

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Updated: August 24, 2017 — 7:42 AM