One of the more enjoyable aspects of being a designer is when we are granted the opportunity to develop concepts. It allows us to imagine what the future may hold, while also painting a target for engineers and developers to ultimately build toward. As time marches on, there's a certain amusement that comes from reviewing old visions and concepts to see how closely we imagined future realities, or where we were totally off-base.
The 1969 Buick Century Cruiser was a technology-laden concept car created by Buick, based on the Firebird IV concept. The basis of their vision was that in the future, there would be automated highways, where steering, throttle, and braking by the driver wouldn't be necessary. In addition to the driver automation, the Century Cruiser offered swivel contour seats, a refrigerator, and a television. The computer-controlled car would be programmed by punch cards with predetermined routes programmed by information provided by electric highway centers. The vehicle's position would be monitored by a radar-like device, with location and status communicated to the 'driver' via projected display. If the occupant preferred to drive themselves, the car also had armrest-mounted joystick-like devices to steer and control speed manually. Ingress was through a canopy that would slide open for easy cockpit access.
The Buick Century Cruiser concept is now over 45 years old. Today we have rapidly advancing autonomous car tech such as lane departure steering assist, sonar-applied braking and acceleration, auto-parallel parking, in-dash displays and HUD projections. We have GPS and mapping devices on our phones and in our cars.
In hindsight, the Buick designers deserve a lot of credit for their tech-centric vision of what we'd be able to do, even if they underestimated the tools we'd use. You can decide for yourself how well time has treated their aesthetic direction.