SEPTEMBER 19, 1956
NEW YORK—In the General Motors Research Center in Detroit I saw an experimental automobile which made me feel that soon almost anyone will be able to do things with a car which now we think of as requiring some strength.
For instance, I saw a car with the windows open and top down, but the minute a few drops of rain fall on a little panel between the seats the windows are automatically raised and the top comes up and slips into place without being touched by human hands.
General Motors has a closed car which, if you forget to close its windows, would automatically close up if rain should fall on top. This particular car has been shown all over Europe in the past seven years. So these innovations are not new, although they must be expensive, for it is not yet possible to put them in all cars.
I have been much troubled over the fact that cars are being made constantly bigger and more powerful and automobiles are taking a great toll of human life. But I was assured that the horsepower now being added to the engine is not for speed but to operate the many new things being put into a car, such as air-conditioning.
I can understand this and I also can understand the contention that it is safer to have a certain amount of additional power to pass cars rapidly on the road. But I still feel that this constant increase in size and power has some danger. Safety belts have been developed and a good deal of research is being conducted on different points, but the medical profession is worried about the number of accidents.
While roads and the human factor may have a great deal to do with these accidents, I still think more research should be conducted which might lead to the conclusion that there is some value in cutting down on the size of the cars.
I was very much interested in the new seat-cover fabrics being developed. They were both beautiful and practical.
One thing that is being done throughout the building interested me particularly. There were exhibitions of paintings done by General Motors' own people. It is good to see an organization like this encouraging art among its staff.
The center has a highly technical group of workers and the working conditions are excellent. But I have a longing to see so much research talent not only going exclusively into the development of automobiles but taking up some of the questions that face the American people and trying to work them out.
One always wants more from anything which seems to be functioning with such success and efficiency, and I wish that it could offer its services for the solving of certain problems if it were asked to do so.
They tell me General Motors offers scholarships in universities all over the country, quite apart from technical training. This shows an enlightened understanding of the need for better education on a higher level for all our young people and gives me a hope that this corporation will try to work out new ways of usefulness to humanity to justify its great power.