Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

The Disney-produced "Magic Highway" animated short presented how 1950s futurists viewed future transportation. It's equally prescient (LifeFlight, sprawl), ridiculous (nuclear cars, air-conditioned roads) and patriarchal (mom to the mall). But what from these highways of future past came true?

Click the video first, and then click through to see how far we've come.


Let's breakdown the promises and if we've actually reached the future Walt Disney promised us.

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past: Large illuminated road signs
Present: Electronic traffic message signs.
Are We There Yet: Yes

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Automatic electric street lights
Present: Automatic electric street signs with photovoltaic sensors
Are We There Yet: Yes

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Heated roads

Present: With the US government striving to improve its road infrastructure after a fatal bridge collapse in Minnesota in 2007, new methods to clear snow without damaging structures are being sought.

One such method, being developed by Christiana Chang at the University of Houston, Texas, and colleagues is to incorporate electric heating elements into concrete roads or bridge decks. When cold weather is forecast, the element can be fired up to heat the road and prevent ice forming. The system is similar to what many have installed in driveways.

Another is an eco-friendly solar-heated roads. This system extracts energy from asphalt concreteby exploiting the heat-absorbing capacity of asphalt concrete, which is further improved by its black color. The thermal energy produced is used to cool buildings, houses and roads in summer and heat them in winter.

Are We There Yet: Yes

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Radar displays

Present: Yes, both radar and night vision available from most luxury car brands

Are We There Yet: Yes

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past In-car traffic bulletins

Present: Satellite traffic updates such as Sirius TraveLink.

Are We There Yet: Yes

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Rearview mirror cameras

Present: Rearview mirror cameras

Are We There Yet: Yes

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Airborne EMS

Present: While not as futuristic and rocket-powered as envisioned, but the same concept exists in LifeFlight.

Are We There Yet: Yes

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Helicopter car removal

Present: Tow trucks

Are We There Yet: No

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Instant road building
Present: Three years to build an overpass. In fact, from environmental impact studies to cost overruns, buildings roads takes longer than it did in the 1950s

Are We There Yet: No

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Quick-setting bridges

Present: In many cases, our national infrastructure may have some of the same concrete poured in 1950 as today. Which is why our bridges are constantly collapsing.

Are We There Yet: No

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Atomic Reactor Tunnelers

Present: We still use the same old drills and explosives we used to use. In fact, Boston's "Big Dig" used some similar technology to construct their tunnels that were used in building London's old pneumatic tubes.

Are We There Yet: No

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Cantilevered skyways over mountains

Present: A few examples, but the lack of these reflects the high cost and questionable purpose as much as the lack of technology.

Are We There Yet: No

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Decentralized population centers

Present: Urban sprawl, represented in this adorably anachronistic video as a positive, was nothing close to being a good thing as our decentralized population centers have clogged up these pristine animated highways.

Are We There Yet: Yes

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past National network of super-speedways.

Present: The Eisenhower Interstate System.

Are We There Yet: Yes

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Washing, drying, refueling home ports

Present: Most people lack car washes in their garages, but electric/hydrogen/CNG vehicles include home-refilling stations like the Honda Home Energy Station. However, few people have them as even fewer people have alternative energy vehicles.

Are We There Yet: Yes

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Automatic route selection

Present: GPS route selection on the modern touchscreen system is vastly superior to what was envisioned in the 1950s.

Are We There Yet: Yes

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Driving while tele-conferencing

Present: Smart phones and distracted drivers

Are We There Yet: Yes

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Separating cars

Present: A car for each member of the family is the closest thing we get to cars that break off, Jetsons-style.

Are We There Yet: No

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Drive-In Offices

Present: Unless you work at Sonic, the closest you'll get is a parking garage.

Are We There Yet: No

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Malls built around parking lots

Present: Malls built around parking lots

Are We There Yet: Yes

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past More time for leisure because of highways

Present: Less time for leisure because of highways

Are We There Yet: No

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Highway escalators

Present: Nothing of the sort. But it does sound both dangerous and awesome.

Are We There Yet: No

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Amphibious cars

Present: For a price you can buy an amphibious car — but no widespread adoption.

Are We There Yet: Yes

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Modern, automated rail system

Present: Maglev bullet trains exist everywhere but in the U.S.

Are We There Yet: Yes

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Rocket-powered Freight Delivery

Present: Unless you live on the space station, you're stuck with 18-wheelers, trains and boats

Are We There Yet: No

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Gas-Turbine Cars

Present: Only for certain mad men.

Are We There Yet: No

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Rocket-powered cars

Present: A rocket-powered Citroen DS exists, but rocket-powered cars exist primarily for people madder than turbine-powered car owners.

Are We There Yet: No

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Atomic cars
Present: We're still, unfortunately, stuck at the molecular level with a few token hydrogen-powered cars
Are We There Yet: No

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Solar-powered cars

Present: Fold-able sunshine cover wings only for college racing teams. However, the new Toyota Prius has a solar-cell roof. But not for powering the car.

Are We There Yet: Yes

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Air-conditioned highways

Present: No

Are We There Yet: No

Highways Of Future Past: How Close Are We?S

Future Past Underwater roads

Present: The Chunnel's pretty close, but it's still a tunnel, not an actual road.

Are We There Yet: No

[YouTube via The Car Lounge, Hooniverse]