I am going propose a question for you to answer by the end of this article: Have we, as an automotive industry, surpassed the Jetson Mobil?
In 1962 the American public’s mind was blown away with the introduction of the Jestons and in particular, the Mobil with its conceptual future technology. It’s insane design and bubbled top shape, mixed with a fully autonomous driving system floating around in the air was the furthest stretch into the future of automotive technology than the American culture had yet to be introduced to. And it was only a cartoon from the insane minds of Hanna & Barbera, which became an instant cult icon. That sound though! The sound the Mobil made, was one that is still being replicated today, whether from our ill attempts using our mouths, or streamed from YouTube. Instantly recognizable no matter what age group. Quick fun fact: that sound was actually generated by placing the muzzle of a pop gun into a cider jug and pulling the trigger, which was then modified by a reed-like device, similar to what Peter Frampton would consequently use. (Insert your attempt to replicate here as I did the same.)
Fast forward fifty five years since its premiere, and here we sit on the cusp of 2017. Although we aren’t floating around in spacecraft-like vehicles, just think of how far we have come in fifty four years of automotive technology. Could it actually be possible, as this Cult icon was set in 2062, for us to exceed these insane and preposterous ideas placed before us by the Mobil? Examples to follow.
If you had said ten years ago that I could send information from a cell phone to the vehicle you were driving to either aide in navigation, aide in music enjoyment, or aide in relaying messages, then I guarantee I would have looked at you just as awkwardly as a puppy does to a new peculiar noise. At the time bluetooth was just an unrealistic reality, and certainly too expensive for the $20k-$30k priced vehicles and still rudimentary in vehicles double in price. If you don’t believe me then just Google if Chrysler succeeded in 2004 with their first attempt…not so much.
Moving to the current model year, name me one new vehicle that doesn’t have Bluetooth as standard kit. Hard pressed to come up with an easy answer right? 99% of all new vehicles have this once star-reaching, crazy, insane, and unreliable function, but yet it’s something we take advantage of every single day. It’s even become second nature to make sure your bluetooth is connected, even before putting on your seatbelt…which saves lives, but that’s a completely different topic so I digress.
Within the past couple of years, we have birthed semi-autonomous and fully autonomous driving. Semi-auto driving is that of a luxury option within the mid-range and fully autonomous driving mostly from the higher end manufacturers such as Tesla, Volvo, BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar/Land Rover, and Rolls just to name a few. But we are on the dawn of this becoming that of mainstream vehicles. For example, KIA, yes KIA, the once “I only have $89 a month to spend on a vehicle budget” kind of KIA, has just unveiled at CES 2017 a fully autonomous KIA Soul which has the promise of becoming a reality. A budget friendly KIA that drives itself…and it’s only 2017.
So are we as a vehicle industry, that far away from passing the Jetson Mobil and its preposterous technology brought to light in 1962? Well, in my personal opinion, no. The seed was planted over fifty years ago and current vehicle manufacturers are certainly passing the mark in technology, literally, with autonomous driving alone in particular. Are we driving cars in the sky yet? No. But, are we surging past the 2062 time clock before the Jetson’s predicted? Yes. As an industry, we have certainly paved that proverbial road in the sky, to the point where the “Unicorn” of the Jetson Mobil, will become reachable earlier than expected. I will leave the question for you to answer…(Insert Jetson Mobil sound driving away.)