Yesterday’s Fiction Is Today’s Fact


What’s Almost Real

Or are we? There are plenty of things KITT could do that real cars still can’t. For example…

Auto Cruise

Auto cruise

Autonomous cars are all the rage today. Yet no one, despite Tesla’s use of the word “AutoPilot,” has actually built a fully self driving production car yet.

But we’re close – very close. Though Tesla’s AutoPilot is more like an advanced adaptive cruise control system than KITT’s fully autonomous Auto Cruise function, under close human supervision it can handle many highway traffic situations. Just ask Alex Roy, Carl Reese, and Deena Mastracci. They “drove” a Tesla Model S from Los Angeles to New York City in 57 hours and 48 minutes. I use the term “drove” loosely, because although one of them was ready to take the wheel at all times, the Tesla drove itself for 96% of the record setting journey.

[brid video=”61252″ player=”4063″ title=”Future Car Technology Audi Automatic Self Parking System With SmartPhone App”]

Also, Tesla and Audi have both demonstrated the ability to have your car go park itself, then come pick you up when you summon it. The car drives at walking pace, and since parking lots are private property this bypasses the legal issue of unmanned cars on public roads. Personally, I’m not interested in this unless I can say “KITT, I need ya, buddy!” into my watch to summon my car. But the technology already exists to make this possible.

Meanwhile, as Tesla and other companies are slowly but continuously evolving their self driving technology, Ford recently announced that they intend to produce a fully autonomous car for ride sharing in 2021. That’s only five years away, one more year than Knight Rider was on the air. It’s a giant leap for a company that’s already way behind others in autonomous features, but maybe the short timetable will force Ford to make some revolutionary developments in autonomous technology to leapfrog the competition.

Either way, as long as I still have the option for “Normal Cruise,” I’m fine with telling KITT to take over for traffic jams, if I’m tired, or if I had one too many at the after-party.

Infrared Tracking Scope

Amateur radio APRS tracking
I’m the motorcycle icon labeled KJ1H-9.

In the context of Knight Rider, KITT’s Infrared Tracking Scope “could monitor the position of specific vehicles in the area within 10 miles.” This couldn’t possibly work by infrared, which would require line-of-sight vision to the vehicle in question. A small GPS and radio transmitter stuck to the car being tracked would be a different story, like the amateur radio APRS tracker I used to use on my motorcycle. Superimpose that data on a Google map, and you could track my movements just like KITT did – but only if I turned the transmitter on.

Night vision
Photo credit: BMW

But some BMWs, Cadillacs, and others have their own take on the Infrared Tracking Scope – a night vision display. The heat signatures of living creatures, human and otherwise, show up brightly on the display no matter how bright or dark they are to the human eye. This could provide the extra warning you need to avoid a deer, moose, or person on the road.

Medical Scanner

KITT scanner
Image credit: mrclaypole67

KITT had an onboard medical scanner that could measure and display someone’s vital signs, similar to a tricorder from Star Trek. Already we have devices like the FitBit that measure and record heart rate and activity data, such as how many steps and flights of stairs you’ve taken today, or how well you slept last night. Just a few months ago, scientists speaking at Phoenix Comic Con said they were close to creating a real life tricorder. Either of these, with the appropriate interfaces to a car, could enable the car to warn you if you were too tired or intoxicated to drive. Or imagine if it detected that you were having a heart attack or a seizure, switched to full autonomous mode, and drove you to the nearest hospital as quickly as it could while calling ahead to explain your condition. We’re not far away from that.


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