Thursday, August 16, 2007

Highways by Automation (1958)


The August 3, 1958 Chicago Tribune ran this Closer Than We Think! strip, demostrating the automatic highway construction of the future. Something very similar to this appears in the May 14, 1958 Disneyland TV episode Magic Highway, U.S.A..

Tomorrow's turnpikes will "flow" out of giant machines like magic ribbons across the countryside. The basic equipment is already in existence; only a few improvements are needed.

The forward section of such a road-builder would be a variant of the new jungle-smashing LeTourneau "tree-crusher" combined with a grader. The middle section would pour concrete in a never-ending flow, with the rear portion leveling the still soft pavement. A line of freight helicopters would be on hand to feed the behemoth with the material necessary to keep it moving across any type of country.


See also:
Disney's Magic Highway, U.S.A. (1958)
Closer Than We Think! (1958-1963)

17 comments:

Benjamin said...

"Tear down the rainforest to build a six-lane freeway? How could we go wrong?" I just love the utter can-do ballsiness of it all.

Gordon said...

I still wonder why we don't have something like this. I can understand that road repair and road building in urban and suburban areas would require workers to prevent damaging existing infrastructure, but for rural highways such a machine seems like it would be a fantastic tool. Maybe we've already built all the roads that such a machine could handle, though.

Anonymous said...

Gordon:

We don't have something like this because road building is a form of pork spending. Why would you build a machine that would do the work of hundreds of human workers, when those human workers vote?

Ron said...

The cost of helicopter delivery of heavy raw materials like concrete would be impractical for all but the most extreme locations.

All-in-one machines already exist for tunneling underground, but that kind of construction is so expensive peak efficiency doesn't matter.

Highway construction, on the other hand, is a competitive business, more so now than in the late 1950s when this article appeared.

Above ground, building a road goes in steps that have varying needs. An all-in-one machine would be less efficient.

E.g. on flat terrain earthwork may only require a few grading machines and go very quickly, but paving moves more slowly, therefore it either needs more time or more machines. The fast-moving grading machines can go do other jobs, while the slow-moving paving machines finish up. Moreover, with separate machines the contractor can assign more or less resources to complete by a required date.

Put simply: an efficient business might want more paving machines than grading machines.

So, unless you're building a road like in "Thunderbirds" i.e. on the side of a mountain, in a lightning storm, just above a nuclear powerplant, you don't need a machine like this to do it. ;-)

Bloguitar said...

Nice blog! I've seen a link at "Blogs of note" and (although I'm Spanish and my English is very poor) I've liked it a lot. I'll even bookmark it after posting this.

Missy said...

Hmmmm, does that thing build bridges? We need a new one in Minneapolis....

Anonymous said...

sagitario

Andrew said...

Actually I think I saw one of those back up in Canada a few months ago. They're great.

Mike Benton said...

What we really need is vaccuum tubes. I forget where I saw it but some guy did a study on how much energy and time we would save with city wide and even country wide vaccuum tubes for people and freight.

I vote for Vaccuum Tubes!

no I don't suck

Mike Benton said...

damnit I spelled it wrong more than once.... wth

ej said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
S. Scott Craft said...

Nice blogs. It is interesting to read articles about the future and seeing if they pan out or not.

Andy said...

Anything is Possible!

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Eric said...

Clearly not the "greenest" way to build roads.

johnny phenothiazine said...

E.g. on flat terrain earthwork may only require a few grading machines and go very quickly, but paving moves more slowly, therefore it either needs more time or more machines.

Actually site prep takes at least ten times as long as actual paving. This doesn't change your main point about the all-in-one device being crazily inefficient.

Anonymous said...

Jungles, who needs jungles? Air, who needs air? What we need is roads! I agree with Benjamin at the top.