Where’s My Flying Car? The Tech of Back to the Future 2

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Way back in 1989, Back to the Future 2 had us all dreaming about how cool life in 2015 would be. Well, it’s here! Who didn’t want hover boards and flying cars? Honestly, I was really hoping for traffic to be extinct by 2015. The fact is that many things look completely different now than in 1989 and Back to the Future 2 managed to get some technology pretty correct while completely failing in other respects. So let’s break down where we are technologically compared to where Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg thought we would be.


Here’s one epic fail. In Back to the Future 2, Marty still uses a pay phone on the street, which are pretty much gone at this point. Instead, we have each have a cell phone, which didn’t seem to make it into the BTTF 2015. There’s also nothing really resembling a smart phone at all, which is perhaps the biggest technological oversight of the film. But hey, AT&T is still around so they got that right! And I guess they thought people would still be reading newspapers? While obviously we do still have newspapers, even watching the film I thought it seemed like a chance for a technological upgrade. At least some sort of moving holographs in newspapers like in Harry Potter would’ve been pretty cool.


In Back to the Future 2, there’s plenty of wearable technology sold as fashion. Here’s where we’ve made some progress. Nike is planning to release self-tying shoes this year, but I have a feeling the price will be a little above the average consumer’s budget.

Have you seen those LED t-shirts that react to sounds around them? Those seem pretty close to that hat with a screen like the police officer wears in the film. We now have smart watches, which are pretty fancy wearable technology. Plus, it’s possible to  broadcast messages using your clothing, which is pretty cool. Although I wish we had those clothes that magically fit. That would sure save a lot of time trying to find the right sizes.


Let’s talk about daily life. Apparently drones that walk dogs are totally a thing we have. Again, maybe not available to the average person but certainly feasible. In fact, we’re using drones for all kinds of things including filming events, similar to how they’re used in the film. Although I don’t think I’d want it that close to my face. And if a microwave wasn’t fast enough for you, I bet you were excited about that instant food rehydrator. Too bad that hasn’t become a reality quite yet. Instant pizza would be epic.


As far as entertainment goes, they managed to get quite a lot pretty accurate.

Those giant flat screens are common and while smart glasses haven’t really caught on, they’ve been around for several years.

3D movies have been around for a long time and technically so have 4D movies, but Holomax is something we’ve yet to see. But apparently we may have it in the not too distant future! So get ready to be terrified whenever Jaws 19 is released.


One of the biggest disappointments of the film’s prediction failures is the fact that we do still need roads in 2015. The Jetsons also totally led me astray on this front. While apparently flying cars might be available in 2017, it’s not something that has happened yet. However, people actually are developing ways to use trash for fuel, a game changer in my opinion. Automatic fueling stations may not be too far in our futures as well. In the film, Biff seamlessly pays a taxi using his fingerprint. And while taxi services aren’t what they use to be, we can pay for all kinds of services using our smart phones, which are locked using thumbprints. So we’re close to a cashless society. At least, I hope so. I never carry cash.

For all of us who’ve been waiting for hover boards to be a reality, it’s not exactly how Back to the Future makes it. We have items similar to hover boards, but not quite. There are several promising options but not as easy as Marty makes it look! Many require a strong magnetic strip buried below the ground. Not exactly what they imagined in 1989.

Over the last 26 years, plenty has changed. Whether it’s our communications, fashion, productivity, entertainment or transportation, I think we can all agree the world is quite a different place. I can’t wait to see what technology we get next. Let’s review in another 26 years–2041–where I’ll be 53 and hopefully finally riding that hover board to work!

Photo Credit: Back to the Future Trilogy / Facebook
GIF Credits: Heather Mason

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