奇怪的是，自动驾驶汽车的梦想可以追溯到汽车发明前几个世纪的中世纪。这方面的证据来自莱昂纳多·德·芬奇（Leonardo De Vinci）的素描，这对于自行推车来说是一个粗略的蓝图。使用卷绕弹簧进行推进，他当时的想法相对于今天开发的高级导航系统而言相当简单。在20世纪早期，开始实际工作的无人驾驶汽车的真正协同努力开始成形，从Houdina无线电控制公司于1925年首次公开演示无人驾驶汽车开始。车辆，收音机受控制的1926年钱德勒，在百老汇和第五大道的一条路线上被引导通过交通，其中紧接着后面的另一辆车发出信号。一年后，经销商Achen Motor还在密尔沃基街头展示了一款名为“Phantom Auto”的遥控车。尽管幻影汽车在20世纪30年代和30年代的各个城市游览过程中吸引了大批观众，但看似没有司机旅行的车辆的纯粹奇观只不过是旁观者的一种奇怪的娱乐形式。此外，设置并没有使生活更轻松，因为它仍然需要有人从远处控制车辆。我们需要的是一个大胆的愿景，即如何自动运营汽车可以更好地为城市服务，这是更高效，更现代化的交通方式的一部分。直到1939年的世界博览会上，一位名叫Norman Bel Geddes的知名实业家才会提出这样的愿景。他的展览“Futurama”不仅因其创新理念而着称，也因其对未来城市的现实描绘而着称。例如，它引入了高速公路作为连接城市和周围社区的一种方式，并提出了一种自动高速公路系统，其中汽车自动移动，允许乘客安全且有利地到达目的地。正如Bel Geddes在他的书“Magic Motorways：”中所解释的那样，1960年的这些汽车及其驾驶的高速公路将拥有能够纠正人类缺陷的装置作为驾驶员。“当然，RCA与通用汽车公司合作和内布拉斯加州一起，按照这个想法运行，并开始研究以Bel Geddes的原始概念为蓝本的自动化公路技术。 1958年，该团队推出了一条400英尺长的自动化高速公路，配备了内置于路面的电子电路。这些电路用于测量不断变化的道路状况，并帮助引导沿着该部分路段行驶的车辆。它经过成功测试，并于1960年在新泽西州普林斯顿展示了第二个原型。那一年，RCA及其合作伙伴受到技术进步的鼓舞，他们宣布计划在未来15年内将技术商业化。作为参与该项目的一部分，通用汽车甚至开发并推广了一系列为未来这些智能道路定制的实验车。频繁播出的Firebird II和Firebird III都采用了未来主义设计和精密的导航系统，可与高速公路的电子电路网络协同工作。
Oddly enough, the dream of a self-driving automobile goes as far back as the middle ages, centuries prior to the invention of the car. The evidence for this comes from a sketching by Leonardo De Vinci that was meant to be a rough blueprint for a self-propelled cart. Using wound up springs for propulsion, what he had in mind at the time was fairly simplistic relative to the highly advanced navigation systems being developed today. It was around the early part of the 20th century that a real concerted effort to develop a driverless car that actually worked started to take shape, beginning with the Houdina Radio Control Company’s first public demonstration of a driverless car in 1925. The vehicle, a radio-controlled 1926 Chandler, was guided through traffic on a route along Broadway and Fifth Avenue with signals sent from another car following close behind. A year later, distributor Achen Motor also showcased a remote-controlled car called the “Phantom Auto” on the streets of Milwaukee. Though the Phantom Auto drew large crowds during its tour of various cities throughout the 20’s and 30’s, the pure spectacle of a vehicle seemingly traveling without a driver amounted to little more than a curious form of entertainment for onlookers. Furthermore, the setup didn’t make life any easier since it still required someone to control the vehicle from a distance. What was needed was a bold vision of how cars operating autonomously could better serve cities as part of a more efficient, modernized approach to transportation. It wasn’t until the World’s Fair in 1939 that a renowned industrialist named Norman Bel Geddes would put forth such a vision. His exhibit “Futurama” was remarkable not only for its innovative ideas, but also for the realistic depiction of a city of the future. For example, it introduced expressways as a way to link cities and surrounding communities and proposed an automated highway system in which cars moved autonomously, allowing passengers to arrive at their destinations safely and in an expedient manner. As Bel Geddes explained in his book “Magic Motorways: “These cars of 1960 and the highways on which they drive will have in them devices which will correct the faults of human beings as drivers.” Sure enough, RCA, in collaboration with General Motors and the state of Nebraska, ran with the idea and began working on an automated highway technology modeled after Bel Geddes’ original concept. In 1958, the team unveiled a 400-foot stretch of automated highway outfitted with electronic circuits built into the pavement. The circuits were used to gauge changing road conditions as well as help steer the vehicles traveling along that part of the road. It was successfully tested and in 1960 a second prototype was demonstrated in Princeton, New Jersey. That year, RCA and its partners were encouraged enough by the technology’s progress that they announced plans to commercialize the technology sometime within the next 15 years. As part of their involvement in the project, General Motors even developed and promoted a line of experimental cars that were custom built for these smart roads of the future. The frequently advertised Firebird II and Firebird III both featured a futuristic design and a sophisticated guidance system programmed to work in tandem with the highway’s network of electronic circuits.