You ain't seen nothing yet

Keith Crain is editor-in-chief of Automotive News

With car shows filling the calendar across the country, it's a good time to contemplate your favorite car from the 1960s or 1970s.

It's great fun to remember the cars and the state of the industry back then.

But after the nostalgia, take a cold, hard look at those older cars compared with today's. It's remarkable how much progress has come about since that time.

A great deal of credit goes to computers for creating modern vehicles that are safer, cleaner and far more fuel efficient than those of years ago.

Government and consumer pressure has resulted in today's vehicles offering whatever the customer wants. Take your pick: 1,000 hp or 50 mpg. Today both are available.

But as marvelous as today's vehicles are, I don't think we have seen the half of it. As technology speeds ahead, so much of tomorrow's car technology will come from Silicon Valley. Today you see as many potential auto innovations at the Consumer Electronics Show as you do at motor shows in Detroit and Geneva.

Everyone knows about the driverless car, which will become a great way to avoid accidents and fatalities. Plenty of safety folks hope to get the human being out of the driver's seat. Even if driverless cars were used only on interstates, the number of lives saved would be significant.

Take a look at what they were writing about in Popular Science and Popular

Mechanics in the '60s: Everything short of cars that fly was predicted and soon might be coming true.

We are enjoying the fruits of automotive engineers' labor, though it's mostly under the skin. Sure, we've got a lot on the surface, but the real progress is in manufacturing, materials and drivetrains.

Eight- or nine-speed transmissions and hydrogen-powered electric vehicles are just some of the technologies that may become as normal as overdrives and diesel engines.

Engineers will get the electronics right, and then we'll have voice-operated vehicles that will do a lot more than tell us "a door is ajar." And our own smartphones will transfer our personal data to whatever car we happen to use.

It's an exciting future for those creating and selling vehicles. We can hardly wait.

You can reach Keith Crain at



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