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The First In-Car Navigation System Was Powered by Helium

History records Honda’s mid-Seventies CVCC engine as an unqualified success, a shining example of ingenuity from a relatively new automaker. And the stratified-charge system was a victory, a clever mechanical design that allowed the company to meet tightening emissions standards without catalytic converters. But in the highly innovative atmosphere of Seventies Honda, the triumph of CVCC highlighted, in some executives’ minds, the company’s lagging position in an area of major automotive breakthroughs: electronics. Indeed, once Honda developed electronic fuel injection, CVCC was done.

So in 1976, Honda launched an intense R&D campaign that imagined an automated-vehicle future—one that could only be unlocked by an accumulation of smaller electronic advancements in every major automotive system. Fundamental to this was the car’s ability to know its own physical location. Easier imagined than achieved. Remember, at the time, the U.S. government’s satellite-based Global Positioning System was restricted to military use. Honda would have to lay a path for the future of navigation using dead reckoning. In other words, the car would have to calculate its position based on distance traveled and changes of direction. For the full story, check out this article from Road & Track.

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