Oz in the News 7.30.20

Autonomous Cars Were Predicted In A Wizard of Oz Book Neill’s Scalawagon is pretty damn close to Google’s autonomous prototype for something that was conceived almost 75 years earlier. The generally rounded shape is very similar, same for the overall layout, the relatively un-ornamented design, the scale is similar, and, most notably, they both feature prominent “sensor domes” on their roofs. Google’s is a LiDAR dome and the Quadling car’s is more of a mechanical head with eyes, but I think conceptually, they’re the same. Besides, even our human heads are basically sensor domes on top of our bodies. I think it’s pretty amazing—back in 1941, writing about an imaginary land, not just the basic idea of a self-driving car was proposed (I don’t think this is even close to the first general instance of that, but still) but an overall system for their use was articulated in a way that’s relevant today, and the general design could be translated to modern (and real) technology with minimal changes. And, just like today, the autonomous car making company was being run by a wealthy and infamous charlatan, who didn’t want you looking at him behind curtains.

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