Fifty years ago, General Motors opened the doors to Futurama II – a massive, 230,000 square-foot exhibit that proved to be one of the most popular displays at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Amongst other attractions, visitors were treated to a ride that provided visual predictions of a high-tech future where humanity leveraged both earth and space for the benefit of all. The exhibit displayed mid-century optimism, style and thirst for technological advancement. Let’s take a look at the fun predictions GM made and compare with the reality we know today.
GM predicted vast moon exploration with six wheeled, malleable lunar rovers and shelters to support life while astronauts monitored space. In the midcentury, before we landed on the moon, many weren’t quite sure why we needed to be up in space, but we knew we wanted to be there.
We still want to know what is going on in space, although we don’t have astronauts just hanging out on the moon. That said, we do have a rover exploring Mars, so perhaps we made it further than we originally dreamed. GM did work with NASA of the original Lunar Rover which is still on the moon today and they collaborated again to put “Robonaut II” in the International space station. So in between his daily chores you could say he is hanging out in space – and we would have never guessed he’d have his own Twitter handle @AstroRobonaut .
A cross continental highway network was said to enable people to live wherever they want, distance no longer being a deterrent. Additionally, electronically based vehicles would safely allow people to come to city centers for commerce and communication.
The National Highway system exists today. To travel long distances, GM offers 24 vehicles that are EPA estimated to achieve at least 30 mpg highway. Further, vehicles like the 2014 Chevrolet Volt, which averages nearly 900 miles between fill-ups, make long commutes even more feasible – even if they may have seemed unreal a half-century ago. And with the addition of 4G-LTE on GM vehicles later this year, the “connected car” is quickly becoming a reality
The super highways of these cities will feature travel routes that are safe, swift and efficient.
They pretty much nailed this one, though maybe they didn’t take it quite far enough. Technologies like Super Cruise, the semi-automated driving system that could be in Cadillac models later this decade. is designed to ease the driver’s workload on freeways only with the ability to adapt speed based on the flow of traffic.
There was a real fascination with utilizing the earth’s maximum potential. Underwater farming and harvesting promised to produce food to feed seven times the population of the earth. Technology was also said to figure a way to turn sea water easily into fresh water. And don’t forget the sweet “aquacopter,” which would help harvest and distribute goods for the earth’s population.
We’ve learned a lot about water over 50 years, including that we need to preserve it for future generations. GM has reduced water consumption by 32 percent at facilities worldwide on a per-vehicle basis between 2005 and 2010 by implementing water conservation tactics at each site. From 2010 to 2012, GM reduced water use by another 4 percent, moving the company closer to a goal of 15 percent water-intensity reduction by 2020.
The world would unite in weather stations in Antarctica that could transmit data around the world in moments.
Today’s reality eclipses the prediction. Thanks to modern communication networks, we now transmit data around the world in moments – and thankfully, we don’t all have to be meteorologists hunkered down in remote, frozen bunkers to do so. More than just people communicating, GM is now developing vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication methods that allow vehicles to share real-time information on speed, weather, traffic, and so on with other vehicles and the infrastructure at large. This interchange of information can theoretically reduce the likelihood of a collision and mitigate traffic congestion.