Editorial: Disneyland’s gas-fueled Autopia cars showcase the worst of Todayland. EVs are a good start

Rows of idling cars at Disneyland's Autopia.
Visitors wait in lines inside their idling cars at the end of the ride at Autopia in Tomorrowland at Disneyland.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

In a move that will finally bring Disneyland’s Tomorrowland back to the future, the theme park has announced it will replace the gas-fueled miniature cars of Autopia with electric models in the next few years.

It’s about time.

Disneyland should have retired the fossil-fueled motors long ago, and not just because they are bad for the environment. Autopia was a centerpiece of Tomorrowland, an area of the park that Walt Disney said was dedicated to “adventures that are a living blueprint of our future.” It was one of the original attractions when Disneyland opened in 1955, and designed to give drivers a taste of a transportation innovation sweeping the country — the freeway.

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Nearly 70 years later, Autopia is very much a blueprint of the present. It’s still wildly popular with park visitors, especially kids. But the ride showcases some of the most soul-sucking parts of modern life: gas-guzzling cars spewing smelly exhaust, bumper-to-bumper traffic and impatient drivers.


So it’s heartening that Disneyland is preparing to update at least one part of the ride, phasing out pure gasoline engines. Disney officials revealed the news to Times columnist Sammy Roth, who had been prodding the company for answers on the future of Autopia.

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The company would not say if the cars will be replaced with fully electric vehicles or hybrids — though, of course, zero emission cars would be the most futuristic since California and several other states, along with many countries, have pledged to end the sale of gas-fueled cars by 2035.

Why stop there? Disney could revamp Autopia to, again, imagine the next transportation innovations. How about incorporating electric bikes and scooters, self-driving cars and autonomous buses? The monorail already travels on an overpass through the attraction. These car alternatives point the way toward a cleaner, safer and more efficient means of travel, rather than relying on everybody driving their own car all the time.

Sure, people line up for Autopia so they can drive their own vehicle (if you can call it driving, given the concrete guide that keeps the car on a track). But Tomorrowland has never been just been about the rides; it was designed to let people experience the future today.

Disney shouldn’t settle for just cleaner electric vehicles in Autopia, though they would be a big improvement. The best part of designing a futuristic park is the freedom to decide what the future should be. Disney should go big, go bold and go green.