Many of us are familiar with covers from Popular Science that depict commuters buzzing around in tiny aircraft and landing on rooftops, or fanciful drawings of vehicles that run on roads, float on water and also take to the air. The basic problem many of us face each day– how to get from Point A to Point B in the least amount of time with the least amount of trouble– has inspired many to dream of marvelous ways to solve that problem.

When we see a drawing of a transportation futuristic, we instinctively know that’s what it is. But what do jetpacks, rolling boats and these other endeavors have in common? With few exceptions, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s visions of helicopters and airplanes, the futuristics are the product of the Industrial and post-Industrial Age, a time when the pace of technological change rapidly accelerated and people began dreaming about the future in new ways.

The futuristics also all involve fairly radical ideas, from new propulsion systems to novel use of materials to extreme hybrids of existing forms. The designs seen in this exhibit have not been commercial successes. Some fail on the technical side (some spectacularly so), while others never achieve economic viability.

This exhibit examines some of the efforts to address transportation needs in ways that didn’t quite get off the ground literally or figuratively. Are the designers simply ahead of their time? Are the failures attributable to an infrastructure that never anticipated such a development? Was there ultimately no way to make the new idea work financially?

More here.