As regular Cars of the Future readers will know, we occasionally like to look back in a series we call… Cars of the Past. Well, today is one of those days.
Following last year’s release of a 1971 news broadcast on “driverless cars and the future of motoring”, the BBC Archive has published another great Retro Transport report: “The Self-Driving Car Of Tomorrow”, from 1967.
The “dual-mode” Self-Transport Road and Rail Car (staRRcar), was designed by Harvard graduate William Alden in the 1960s.
The report describes it as “America’s answer to the universal problem of personal transport in congested cities – combining the door-to-door convenience of the private car with the speed and relaxation of public transport at its best.”
Self-driving on track
The battery-powered three-seater can be driven ‘normally’ on local roads, but also has the ability to join automated guideways – 8ft-wide tracks designed to be installed alongside existing road lanes.
Users simply press a button to select their destination, sit back and read the paper, while the staRRcar slots into a train of such vehicles, self-driving at up to 60mph.
After taking a spur exit, they can retake control and continue their journey, or leave the staRRcar at a car park, ready to be used by others.
Presenters from Absolute Radio – Andy Bush, Richie Firth, Dave Berry and Matt Dyson – lined-up for The Great British Sinclair C5 Seafront Race in Margate on Tuesday 5 February.
The Isle of Thanet News reported that the legendary 1980s three wheelers were supplied by C5 Alive, a local enthusiasts’ club run by Eddie Green and Neil Brooks, who have restored more than 30 C5s to full working order.
The C5 is a single-seater battery-assisted pedal cycle with a top speed of 20mph, described by inventor Sir Clive Sinclair as “a vehicle, not a car”.
Of 14,000 made, only 5,000 were sold before Sinclair Vehicles went into receivership. The planned follow-ups, the C10 and C15, never made it off the drawing board.
In the week when 97-year-old Prince Philip did his best to put road safety back on the front pages – first by smashing his Land Rover into a blue Kia, then being spotted back behind the wheel but not wearing a seatbelt – the British Safety Council reminded us of the pioneering work of controversial founder, James Tye.
Tye (pictured) campaigned tirelessly for 25 years until wearing a seatbelt become a legal requirement in 1983, producing one of the first reports on the subject back in 1959. The Department for Transport estimates the humble harness now saves around 2,000 lives in the UK every year.
Matthew Holder, head of campaigns at the British Safety Council, said: “The times when critics of the seatbelt regulations accused the government of operating a nanny state and limiting their personal freedom and comfort are long gone.”