The Model T

You will probably never hear a TED talk about it, but the fact is the most autonomous car ever made was last made almost 100 years ago.

It was the Model T Ford – produced from 1908-1927.

Here was a car that did almost everything on its own – the defining essence of autonomous. It needed almost nothing from the external world except some gas in the tank. Not even a starter.

You were the starter.

Which meant that as long as you had at least one good arm and there was gas in the tank – gravity fed, so no worries about a fuel pump failing – you would probably not be walking.

It didn’t even have to have gas in its tank.

The Model T’s cast iron, 177 cubic inch four cylinder flathead engine could – and would – also run on alcohol or benzene or kerosene. Almost any combustible liquid would work in a pinch.

It was a “flex-fuel” engine decades before the term was coined.

The T wasn’t very fast – top speed was about 45 MPH – but the thing was hard to stop. It had skinny tires, transverse leaf springs and more than a foot of ground clearance, which enabled it to cut through snow drifts, traverse creeks and cross over almost any terrain – decades before such a thing as a “crossover SUV” was ever heard of.

You could use it to plow a field, if you liked.

Components were simple and rugged. Parts interchangeable.

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