Timeline: Tracing Transportation Developments

How travel has progressed during the past 40 years

7 July 2017

In celebration of The Institute’s 40th anniversary year, we’re presenting a series of timelines highlighting topics and technologies that have moved forward significantly during the past four decades.

Engineers have been the drivers behind just about every form of new transportation technology. They include Frank J. Sprague, president in 1892 and 1893 of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE), one of IEEE’s predecessor societies. He designed and helped build more than 100 electric railway systems across the United States, as well as a few others in Italy and Germany.

A collaboration among the U.S. Army Air Corps, engineering companies, and research laboratories helped develop radio and aeronautical instrumentation for an Army Air Corps Husky NY-2 biplane that in 1929 conducted the first blind takeoff and landing of an airplane.

Charles F. Kettering, director of General Motors’ research division and recipient of the 1958 AIEE Edison Medal, is credited with several innovations in automotive electronic systems, including ones for batteries, ignition systems, and electric starting motors.

Rocket scientist William Pickering, the 1972 IEEE Edison Medal recipient, pioneered the exploration of space during his tenure as director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif.

And other IEEE members have made strides in technology for airplanes, high-speed trains, self-driving cars, and space shuttles.

This article was written with assistance from the IEEE History Center, which is partially funded by donations to the IEEE Foundation.

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