It’s a good thing hindsight is 20/20, because these predictions of “cars of the future” from decades past are pretty darn blind. But who knows, in 50 years, they might have the last laugh after all.
10) Driverless Car (1957)
This electric company ad is spot-on about a few of its predictions of the future of electricity (“Your food will cook in seconds instead of hours…Television ‘screens’ will hang on the walls.”), but driverless cars with speed and steering controlled by electrical devices in the road have yet to become a reality — except in I, Robot.
9) Sunray Sedan (1958)
The prediction of a solar-powered car seems plausible (although it has yet to become a reality in modern production vehicles), but the design of the “sunmobile” in this article — a three-wheeler with a fin and multiple satellite dishes — seems pretty ridiculous. Or maybe it’s just the Batman supervillain apparel they foresee us wearing.
8) Fish-Mobile (1933)
This design uses airplanes as its inspiration, although the end result looks more like a fish, with a tapered body, rounded front, tail and fin. All that’s missing is a tartar sauce compartment. The author calls the look “streamlined,” envisioning the automobile of the future weighing less than 2,000 pounds (the average is now twice that) with a motor of around 100 horsepower.
7) Giant Bus (1930)
What do you get when you cross a bus and a cruise ship? This behemoth, which the designer envisioned would run between New York and San Francisco and be equipped with space for your car, plus “billiard rooms, swimming pool, dancing floor and a bridle path” for those who can’t let go of their horses. Want to go somewhere not on the thoroughfare between NY and SF? Well, you’re in luck, because there will be a landing field on the top deck where planes will be waiting to whisk you — and maybe even your horse? — off to your destination.
6) Lowrider (1918)
The earliest prediction of the future on this list is this extremely unsafe-looking iron lung made largely of glass with a low clearance, “punctureless tires,” curtains to keep out the sun’s glare and no clutch, gear or transmission. It would be driven via a series of buttons and a lever instead of a steering wheel, and of course, it would look like the Weinermobile to deter anyone from wanting to steal it.
5) Shopping Car (1964)
The three-wheeled Runabout was a GM concept “car ot tomorrow” whose trunk area came equipped with two shopping carts (because one’s not enough?) that slid right out of the back, for the hoarder in all of us.
4) Travel Cartridge (1960s)
Agoraphobiacs rejoice! With Fuller’s Traveling Cartridge, you may never have to have face-to-face encounters with anyone ever again! This little pod not only acts as a self-propelled car, but it can also connect to others of its kind in a train-like formation using an external propulsion system. But wait, there’s more! The pods can park side-by-side on a monorail or airplane, ensuring you never have to be in close proximity to the unwashed masses.
3) Crash-Proof Car (1938)
Inspired by increased auto safety features of the era, this article forecasts a time when we’ll basically be driving around in large bumper cars with shock-absorbing bumpers on all four sides and all the way up the top of our vehicles. (Presumably all that glass would be shatter-proof as well.)
2) Color-Switching Car (1958)
If you think people are crazy about customizing their cars nowadays, imagine if we had technology like the one in this article, where electromagnetic ray guns instantly change the color of a car’s exterior (for $1.50!). They should call it the Evade-A-Cop.
1) Fold-Up Car (1939)
You think your car is easy to steal now? This article uses the advent of lighter, stronger metals of the time as the jumping-off point for a vision of a future car that’s light and flexible enough to fold into the size of a large suitcase, with a removable engine the size of an alarm clock.