<38> News of the start of the automatic shuttle bus service in San Francisco

1939/40 San Francisco
「太陽の塔」をデザインした切手 Stamps with the "Tower of the Sun" design

News of the start of the automatic shuttle bus service in San Francisco

When I was looking at the net, I happened to see the following news from CBS News.

“Driverless bus service launches on SF Treasure Island following robotaxi expansion”

This article is news on August 18, 2023.

Speaking of automatic shuttle buses, the EXPO 2005 AICHI, JAPAN also had IMTS unmanned platoon buses running through the venue.

However, what caught my eye more than that was the fact that the service started on San Francisco’s “Treasure Island”.

This is because “Treasure Island” is the place where the 1939/40 San Francisco World’s Fair (The Golden Gate International Exposition) was held.

So let’s read a little more into this news story.

A brief description of the contents is as follows.

In San Francisco, robotaxis have already been licensed, and two companies, Cruise and Waymo, have launched the service.

However, Cruise (a subsidiary of General Motors) had an accident after that. One of its robotaxi crashed into a city fire truck backup and block emergency vehicles.

Meanwhile, on Treasure Island, where about 2,000 people live, a free automatic shuttle bus service provided by Beep (Orlando, Florida) has started. The route, called ‘the Loop’, has seven stops, and 10-passenger electric buses run every 20 minutes from 9am to 6pm daily.

However, perhaps in consideration of the above accident, it is not completely unmanned, and there is one attendant on board. The attendant move the bus by “controller” when necessary.

Looking at the route, it seems that it circulates about half the area of the island, from the center to the northwest of “Treasure Island“, which was the site of the 1939/40 San Francisco World’s Fair.

1939/40 San Francisco World’s Fair (Golden Gate International Exposition)

So what kind of exposition was the 1939/40 San Francisco World’s Fair?

“Golden Gate Bridge” and “Bay Bridge“

The World’s Fair was planned and held to commemorate the completion of the opening of “Golden Gate Bridge” (opened May 27, 1937) and the “Bay Bridge” (San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, opened November 12, 1936), both of which are still tourist attractions in San Francisco.

Golden Gate Bridge
©️Nobuaki Kyushima

The “Golden Gate Bridge” and “Bay Bridge” were also associated with the World’s Fair.

This Expo was held in two phases from February 18th to September 29th of the following year, when the footsteps of World War II were imminent.

The venue was “Treasure Island”.
It is an artificial island created from 1936 to 1937 for this Fair.

“Tower of the Sun”

The symbol of the Expo was the “Tower of the Sun”.

Speaking of the “Tower of the Sun”, Japanese people naturally think of Okamoto Taro (1911-1996) at the 1970 Osaka Expo, but another “Tower of the Sun” stood on this “Treasure Island” more than 30 years ago.

This tower was designed in Art Deco style by Arthur Brown Jr. (the Chairman of the fair’s Architectural Commission).

Boasting a height of 400 feet (about 122 meters), it was the most conspicuous structure in the venue. (By the way, Okamoto Taro ‘s “Tower of the Sun” is 70 meters high.)

This ” Tower of the Sun ” was even more conspicuous at night with its lighting. There was also a mechanism that shoots beams from the bottom of the tower, and together with the fountain in front, it was a spectacle at night.

Also, the “Tower of the Sun” had 44 carillons.

Venue view from the island entrance

“Tower of the Sun” and Fountain

Stamps with the “Tower of the Sun” design

Participation of Walt Disney

It was also at this Fair that Walt Disney (1901-1966) made his first commercial animated film for the Nabisco exhibition.

There is an old photograph of Walt Disney with Nabisco executives. The two are emerging from a double door, above which we can see the sign, saying,

“Mickey’s Surprise Party featuring Walt Disney’s Mickey & Minnie Mouse”

In 1939, another World’s Fair was held in New York, and it seems that the same film was used at both World’s Fairs.

Walt Disney is also involved in promotions for Standard Oil of California, “Mickey and Donald’s Race to Treasure Island” and “Mickey and Donald and the Nephews at the Fair.”

Westinghouse Robot

In addition, there is also a record that Westinghouse, which I introduced in <36> story, exhibited a robot named Willie Vocalite.

In 1939, Westinghouse also exhibited “Elektro” at the New York World’s Fair, but this Willie Vocalite was actually made before (1931), and it appeared at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair too.

Looking at it now, it feels like an old tin toy made bigger, with a rather retro flavor.

Japan Exhibit

What was the Japan Pavilion like?

In 1939 and 1940, war was creeping up on both Japan and the United States.

Nevertheless, Japan was second only to the US Federal Building in size and cost.

Looking at the materials, it looks like a combination of a Japanese castle and a Japanese house. There is also an excursion-style (kaiyu-style) Japanese garden.

A postcard featuring the Japan Pavilion

After the Fair, Japan made an offer to hand over the building to someone free of charge, but since the building was brought in without customs duty, there was no taker who could pay the customs duty, and in the end, it was incinerated and lost in May 1941.

“Treasure Island” visited by the Author

Now, let’s go back to “Treasure Island”.

Actually, I have visited “Treasure Island” once. At that time Assistants 1 and 2 was with me.

When we went there in 2011, neither Uber nor Lyft were popular, so I drove a rental car.

Cars drive on the right side of the road in America, so I assumed that the fork road going down to “Treasure Island” would be in the right lane, so I was driving in the right lane.

But suddenly, I saw an exit lane sign on the left near center.

A little impatient, I pulled over to the left and safely headed for the exit lane.

After that we went through some curves and arrived at “Treasure Island”.

It seems that the island was later turned into a naval facility. However, it appears to have closed in 1997.

However, at the time of my visit, I was still able to confirm the sign “U.S. NAVAL STATION.”

Sign of U.S. Naval Station
©️Nobuaki Kyushima

©️Nobuaki Kyushima

And there was also a sign “WELCOME TO TREASURE ISLAND“.

Treasure Islandの立札
Treasure Island sign
©️Nobuaki Kyushima

From here, you can see the cityscape of San Francisco and it is very beautiful.

Maybe some people are coming for this view.

View of the Bay Bridge from Treasure Island
©️Nobuaki Kyushima

View of San Francisco from Treasure Island
©️Nobuaki Kyushima

Treasure Island tree lined avenue
©️Nobuaki Kyushima

Treasure Island tree lined avenue
©️Nobuaki Kyushima

Flag of Treasure Island

By the way, there is a “Treasure Island Museum” on this island, which houses valuable materials from the 1939/40 Fair.

At the time of the Fair, there was a vehicle called “Elephant Train” in the venue, which looked like an articulated bus with an elephant-shaped head. Powered by a Ford V-8 engine, it carried spectators.

The “Elephant Train” entertained visitors for 10 cents from the parking lot to the center of the venue, plus an additional 35 cents for a sightseeing tour of the entire venue.

Elephant Train
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
t https://flickr.com/photos/30682960@N08/12093301814

And this year, more than 80 years after that, a self-driving shuttle bus using cutting-edge technology started service at the same venue.

After reading this news,  I thought about what this Treasure Island would be like another 80 years later.