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"I suspect that religion is a necessary evil in the childhood of our particular species. And that's one of the interesting things about contact with other intelligences: we could see what role, if any, religion plays in their development."
- Arthur C. Clarke

Automatic Control Car  
  An autonomous vehicle.  

Not the earliest description, but there are lots of imaginative details here from Clarke.

As the beautiful old car cruised in almost perfect silence under the guidance of it's automatic controls, Duncan tried to see something of the terrain through which she was passing. The spaceport was 50 km from the city - no one had yet invented a noiseless rocket - and the four-lane highway bore a surprising amount of traffic. Duncan could count at least 20 vehicles of different types and even though they were all moving in the same direction, the spectacle was somewhat alarming.

"I hope all those other cars are on automatic," he said anxiously.

Washington looked a little shocked. "Of course," he said. "It's been a criminal offense for at least a hundred years to drive manually on a public highway. But we still have occasional psychopaths to kill themselves and other people..."

The big car was slowing down, it's computer brain sensing an exit ahead. Presently it peeled off from the parkway, then speeded up again along a narrow road whose surface rapidly disintegrated into a barely visible grass-covered track. Washington took the steering lever just a second before the END AUTO warning started to flash on the control panel.

From Imperial Earth, by Arthur C. Clarke.
Published by Harcourt Brace in 1976
Additional resources -

Autonomous car engineers might also appreciate this last bit:

A little later, the car turned into a driveway which letter beautifully kept ones. There was a gentle beeping from the control panel, and a sign flashed from beneath the steering handle: SWITCH TO MANUAL.

Compare to the automatic automobile from David H. Keller's 1935 story The Living Machine and the Camden Speedster from Robert Heinlein's serialized 1941 novel Methuselah's Children.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Imperial Earth
  More Ideas and Technology by Arthur C. Clarke
  Tech news articles related to Imperial Earth
  Tech news articles related to works by Arthur C. Clarke

Automatic Control Car-related news articles:
  - Tesla Promises Fully Autonomous Cars By 2018
  - Tesla's New Autopilot, With Test Drive Video
  - Tesla Autopilot Road Trip 2995 Miles, 57 Hours
  - Fully Autonomous Vehicles In 2 Years - Musk
  - Autonomous Cars In Snow? Ford, University Of Michigan Say Yes!
  - Chris Brewer Speaks at Michigan Robotics
  - China Bans Self-Driving Car Testing
  - Amazing Tesla Autopilot Video
  - Yandex Self-Driving Taxi Is Very Smooth

Articles related to Vehicle
Rplate Digital License Plates Now Legal In Michigan
Yandex Self-Driving Taxi Is Very Smooth
Tesla Model 3 Has Outside Speaker Grille
Audi Pop.Up Autonomous Electric Flying Car

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