Recent times haven’t been kind to those who make predictions for a living.
It’s not unreasonable to suggest that one or two things haven’t quite gone the way most of them would have expected of late.
It wasn’t always thus. The other day editor Matt Burt dug a piece out of the Autocar archives. In 1959 Autocar’s then editor, Maurice A Smith DFC, took an educated guess at the kinds of technology cars would employ “sooner or later”. And he was rather more successful at it.
As well as being Autocar’s editor, Smith simultaneously edited a sister magazine, Flight, which he rejoined on leaving the RAF, in which he’d risen to the rank of wing commander in World War 2 – hence the Distinguished Flying Cross.
With his sound automotive and aeronautical engineering knowledge, and with an optimism typical of the time, Smith foresaw autonomous driving, when “more control may one day be introduced on motorways”, and “electronic and radar aids to give collision warning and automatic control of a car in danger”.
He knew anti-lock brakes and better tyres were on the cards, and that level-ride suspension and dual, linked hydraulic brakes should be too. He believed interiors should have an absence of sharp edges and a steering wheel that scoots out of the way in an accident – like Audi’s procon-ten system did from the mid- 1980s, until airbags replaced the idea.