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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Flying Cars in Two Years? Stop Buying the Hype


Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.  


Moller Skycar

“The future is here! Get to work like George Jetson!” It seems like every six months, a new company claims to have created a flying car that will finally make production. And every time, we’re left waiting for it to come. “Fool me once…” I think is how the saying starts.

From the Terrafugia to the AeroMobil, flying cars have been in a perpetual state of testing for years. That’s only natural, as the technology required to deliver a personal flying/driving vehicle that costs less than the GDP of Liechtenstein will take a long time to get right. Items like power storage, and lightweight materials are only now becoming available in a way that companies can even build prototypes, and even those proofs of concept have mixed track records.


Take the AeroMobil, for example. In March, we reported that it would be available by 2017, though we weren’t holding our breath. That skepticism was well earned, and proved right in May, when an AeroMobil prototype crashed in Slovakia. There were no serious injuries, thankfully, and testing will continue. But ready by 2017? Don’t count on it.
And that’s just the thing-you could swap in a number of company names for the headline, “(Company Name) Promises Flying Car in Just Two Years.” First it was the X-Hawk, then it was the Moller Skycar, followed by Terrafugia. And every time these companies promised a flying car, the press (including us) would hop on it like a mouse on a particularly smelly hunk of gouda. But why do we keep falling for it?

Terrafugia Transition

Despite all the reasons for people to be skeptical, it is one of the very definitions of having arrived in the future. The visions of highways through the sky have been beaten into us for years. From the Jetsons to Back to the Future II, personal flying vehicles were supposed to be the mark of progress. Just look at the magazine clipping below.
But the future we longed for is a little more subtle than that. Smartphones, medical advancements, and autonomous cars are the real-world examples of our progress. They’re definitely not as glamorous as the idea of a Lexus that hovers, though.


The fact is, none of these vehicles will be ready any time soon. A company MAY get the technology right, but there are the monolithic hurdles of price, infrastructure, and regulation. Even if a company gets the price down to the hundreds of thousands (Maserati-branded flying car anyone?), the FAA and NHTSA will make it very difficult to own and operate these vehicles. Hell, we have a hard enough time driving on roads without the occasional fender-bender. You want to trust the driving public with amounts to a small plane? We should be thankful that these flying cars won’t be available any time soon.

Which brings us back to the constant news coverage of something that doesn’t deliver. It’s like we completely forget the failures (and unfulfilled promises) of the past. The press should be a little more responsible in conveying the hurdles of bringing such a vehicle to market, rather than regurgitate a press release about how I’ll be getting around town like Blade Runner.