Meet ALVINN, the self-driving car from 1989

In 1989, the Berlin Wall began to fall, the World Wide Web made its debut, Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” topped the charts, and in Pittsburgh, a retrofitted Army ambulance called ALVINN was driving around Carnegie Mellon University without any human intervention.

Self-driving cars may seem like a very recent technological phenomenon, but researchers and engineers have been building vehicles that can drive themselves for over three decades. Research on computer controlled vehicles began at Carnegie Mellon in 1984 and production of the first vehicle, Navlab 1, began in 1986. ALVINN, which stands for Autonomous Land Vehicle In a Neural Network, was used as a test vehicle well into the 1990s.