HomeCar CulturePredictions about roads of the future were wrong

Predictions about roads of the future were wrong

Self-driving cars, hydrogen fuel and flying vehicles – big things are being planned for the motor industry, but how many of those predictions proved to be correct?


“Self-driving cars, hydrogen fuel and flying vehicles – big things are being planned for the motor industry, but what about the predictions of the past?” wondered British vehicle financing specialist Rivervale Leasing.

So, “ We investigated old car news and archives of motor magazines to find out what we once thought was possible. Check out our five visualized scenes below to see what our roads should look like, according to historic predictions:

Nuclear power stations for refueling our cars

“In 1958, Ford produced a nuclear-powered concept car known as the Ford Nucleon. The futuristic scale model was designed to ‘explore how the future of energy might affect the future of automotive design.’

The reactors inside the cars were supposed to be replaced every 5,000 miles at recharging stations. Instead of filling up at the pump, your reactor would be swapped with a new one, with different options available if you have a high-torque or fuel-efficient model.

“When the Nucleon was revealed, the technology was still being researched and it was thought that nuclear power would be a practical energy source. However, obvious safety issues and technical problems meant that this car never went ahead.

“Research by Stanford Universityexplains that nuclear-powered cars could be possible one day, thanks to advancements in technology. However, it’s more likely that the atomic energy would be used ‘indirectly’ and not actually part of the vehicle.”

All roads will become tubes

Future, Predictions about roads of the future were wrong, ClassicCars.com Journal

“In 1957, it was predicted that our roads would become tubes! An engineer working for the American aerospace and technology company Honeywell imagined that we would have a ‘network of pneumatic tubes’ by 2000.

“Pneumatic tubes were originally designed for transmitting telegrams. The system of pipelines would use air pressure to post capsules of information, which was called ‘pneumatic dispatch’. Imagine this, but on a much larger scale – where you travel inside the capsule!

“Pneumatic roads aren’t as far off as you might think. Elon Musk initially proposed the Hyperloop in 2012, a system which can transport passengers up to 760 miles per hour inside a tube.

“More recently, in May this year, an American computer scientist patented a ‘vacuum tube transport system’, which is described as ‘a capsule body to transport passengers within a vacuum tube’.”

A helicopter coupe parked on your driveway

Future, Predictions about roads of the future were wrong, ClassicCars.com Journal

“The February 1951 edition of Popular Mechanics magazine presented the ‘Helicopter Coupe,’ which was described as a ‘helicopter that’s small enough to land on your lawn and big enough to carry two people’.

“Created by the president of Hiller Helicopters for the US military, the ultralight personal vehicle was named the ‘Hiller Hornet’. It was priced at around £3,800 in the ’50s, which equals to £81,000 today – you could buy a brand-new Lotus Evora for that much.

“While the helicopter coupe never happened, flying cars are in production. Dutch company PAL-V is developing the world’s first flying car that can travel on public roads. Although they’re a lot more expensive than the Hiller Hornet, with UK reserve prices as high as £452,000 ($591,625).”

Individual highways for cars, trains, people and planes

Future, Predictions about roads of the future were wrong, ClassicCars.com Journal

“In the August 1925 issue of Popular Science, American architect Harvey Wiley Corbett explains how we could solve congestion problems with elevated highways.

“Corbett believed that one day, ‘Future city streets will be in four levels: The top level for pedestrians; the next level for slow motor traffic; the next for fast motor traffic, and the lowest for electric trains.’ The architect also imagined that the roofs of skyscrapers ‘will be aircraft landing fields’.

“Similar plans came to the UK in 1963, when planners in Derby proposed an ‘elevated carriageway that will allow traffic to circulate with convenience, while permitting continuous pedestrian flow underneath.’

“Corbett imagined that we would travel on these roads by 1950 – an ambitious plan for just 25 years in the future! While we do have elevated highways, they’re nowhere close to what Corbett had planned.”

No more traffic lights – they’re installed on your dashboard

Future, Predictions about roads of the future were wrong, ClassicCars.com Journal

“Traffic lights should be a thing of the past, according to a 1932 edition of Popular Mechanics magazine. It was predicted that stop and go lights would be fitted onto the dashboard, so drivers can see which route is open in advance.

“While we aren’t getting rid of traffic lights any time soon, if you’re an Audi driver, you can take advantage of the ‘Time-to-Green’ system. 

“When waiting at traffic lights, a countdown appears on the smart dashboard and shows you how long it’ll be until the lights turn green.

“What’s more, for drivers in Europe, Audirecently announced that this year, ‘Audi drivers will see in the cockpit what speed is required to reach the next traffic light on green.’ So, you might not have to wait much longer for the technology.”

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


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