For a fortunate few, a visit to Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World begins at the Orlando airport. Avis Inc. has 100 "smart" cars there, with dashboard navigation screens and a voice-guide called Sven. Punch in a Central Florida destination, and Sven will help get you there, announcing turns in a synthetic Swedish accent. If there's a traffic jam ahead, Sven will steer you around it.
It's part of a $12 million "smart highways" program, funded in part by General Motors Corp. and the Federal Highway Administration. Video cameras or other sensors monitor 75,000 intersections and 10,000 miles of road, relaying data to Orlando's Traffic Management Center. A computer there keeps in touch with the smart cars. The technology could usher in a so-called Intelligent Vehicle Highway System that will mean safer roads and shorter commutes for 21st century drivers.