Was the future of our cars predicted by Knight Rider’s creator?

Was the future of our cars predicted by Knight Rider’s creator?

The ultimate honour for sci -fi writers has to be when the worlds they create seem to come true.
For Knight Rider’s creator Glen Larson, who has died aged 77, he will have seen some of his imaginations turn into reality.

The show’s tagline declares the show “a shadowy flight into the dangerous planet of a man who does not exist”. Like David Hasselhoff’s Michael Knight character, most of the technologies found under the bonnet of KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand – Knight’s) didn’t exist, at least not in 1982.


Below are some of the memorable technologies, most of which can be found in many cars currently on the road.


Self-driving/Auto collision avoidance


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Many manufacturers have included sophisticated collision detection into their cars. Michael Knight generally had quite a bit on his plate, and so it was necessary for him to give some simple tasks, like driving, to Kitt.

To stop crashing into things, Kitt would deploy auto collision avoidance technologies. The car would scan what was taking place around it to ensure it reacted swiftly.

Twenty years later, auto collision detection technologies is a widely implemented security function. The European Commission has stated that all new commercial vehicles need to be fitted with devices by 2015, so to (hopefully) dramatically reduce the number of fatalities on European roads.
Ford, GM, Toyota and other manufacturers are funding huge projects of research and development in this area.


Anamorphic equaliser
Perhaps Kitts most distinctive feature was his anamorphic equaliser (the red bar of light that moved from side to side on the front of the car) enabling Kitt and Knight to see with X-ray vision, giving him ‘electronic eyes’.


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Modern day technology hasn’t quite reached the heights of Kitt – yet. Mercedes Benz have fitted some of their higher-end cars with infra-red technology that ‘lights up’ the road ahead which is invisible to the human eye, but can be interpreted by a computer to give better visibility. Other systems use thermal radiation, given off by humans and animals which allow a different way to “see” in the dark.


Homing device
Google’s self-driving cars are expected to be on the road “within a year”.
If Knight was struggling, he could call Kitt via a homing beacon hidden inside a gold pendant he kept around his neck, and Kitt would appear from nowhere to rescue him.
Google’s self-driving cars will have a similar feature, but instead of a gold pendant, you’d use your smartphone.


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Also, Google’s car will not rush to your side, as it will have a top speed of 25mph, for now. More sensible, but far much less cool.


Healthcare scanner
One of the first futuristic attributes we’re shown on Knight Rider is Kitt’s ability to detect Knight’s crucial signs, as there’s no point in Kitt being highly advanced if the person he’s supposed to be helping is dead.
Kitt could tell if a person riding in it is “injured, poisoned, undergoing strain or other emotional behaviour”. So how did he do this? By using sensors in the seat of course!




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Ford has developed this technology and introduced sensors into the car seats which can monitor the rider’s heart rate, call ECG Heart Rate Monitoring Seat. Six embedded sensors monitor the vital signs and can therefore detect whether a driver is, for example, having a heart attack. If a problem is detected, the car would activate the security features – like collision avoidance – to bring the car to a slow stop. When Kitt was given an upgrade for the 2008 series, it was even able to administer oxygen.


Electronic jammer

Inside Kitt’s dashboard was an electronic jammer – which may appear to feel a bit low-tech nowadays.

KITT dash

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Knight would use Kitts jammer to create mischief by moving objects, hacking money machines to spit out dollars, and taking manage of nearby cars.
Nowadays, jamming is much more probably to be used by truckers to hide what they’re up to.
GPS jamming is becoming a big concern for traffic authorities as companies use GPS to help keep track of where their vehicles are.
Some drivers, who don’t want their employers to know exactly where they are or may be doing some moonlighting, use a £30-a-pop jammers to spoof the system. But this is illegal, and potentially dangerous.


Hydrogen hybrid

Kitt may of been a bit of a beast – but it was at least environmentally-friendly, as Kitt was powered by hydrogen, the zero-emission fuel of choice for today’s most well-known clean vehicles. But it wasn’t just hydrogen it used for fuel, as the car’s sophisticated (a secret, apparently) engine was in a position to utilize a mixture of fuels, including petrol – a bit like the Toyota Prius, today’s biggest selling hybrid globally.


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Kitt’s fuel efficiency, by the way, was said to be around 65 miles (100km) per gallon.


Credit: Dave Lee, BBC News

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