Flying cars: what they will be in reality

By Andy Stone | Car

Aug 08
The flying car

The idea of the flying car came after WWII when the aircraft industry tried to concentrate on the future needs. That is, incidentally, when the Cessna 172 came to be, with a steering wheel like cars and even, astray in the doors.

However, flying a car poses a real problem. How would you organize the airspace? And to what profit? If the traffic is so great that roads are not enough, the air will certainly be jammed too because distances between each vehicle will need to be greater.

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Nevertheless, things are changing now, and today we will talk about all the possibilities of appearing flying cars. By the way, to see more information about technologies, you may visit, and you won’t regret.

Turning back to history we propose you to see the Taylor Aerocar. It was the premiere aerocar which was made in 1949, a bit before this whole idea of flying car began.

This is a later model. It is an airplane that can be driven like a car. And, unless you own a huge plot of land, you will have to drive to an airport to take off and from an airport, after you land, because state governments would strongly object to you using a highway. The original premiere car is now in a museum in Wisconsin that is why you can go there and see reality in your lifetime.

Flying cars are a reality. But the problem is, they cost as much as houses, and are decidedly unsexy, regardless of whether you’re looking at them as a car or as a plane. Also, you’ll need a pilot’s license (nearly $10,000 in training) as well as a driver’s license.

Uber about flying cars

Uber’s “flying car” project Elevate came whizzing back into view today with a number of key announcements about where it will first appear, who will be working on it, and how this futuristic service will look when it ultimately takes off.

Uber’s head of product Jeff Holden in the speech at the Web Summit in Lisbon announced that the company is adding a third city, Los Angeles, to its list of places where it hopes to pilot its aerial taxi service by 2020. In this cool thing, LA joins Dallas-Fort Worth and Dubai as cities announced to be working with Uber on the program.

He also said that Uber had signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA to create a brand-new air traffic control system to manage this low-flying, possibly autonomous aircraft. And to round it all out, Uber released a glossily produced video to demonstrate what using its aerial taxi service would look like from the perspective of a working mom who just wants to get home to her kids.

As you can see, it’s all very utopian. Smiling agents wearing headsets, goggles, and Uber-branded vests lead her and several other passengers across the roof to their awaiting aircraft, which appears to be a plane-helicopter hybrid with fixed wings and tilt proprotors. Despite the presence of these whirling blades, no-one’s hair moves at all. During the flight, she looks out of the window with pity at all the poor souls stuck in traffic below, as she is whisked through the clouds to her gorgeous, perfect family waiting at home. The closing tagline: “Closer than you think.”

How much closer? Uber first introduced its plan to bring ride-sharing to the skies in a white paper last year, but the project still faces significant hurdles. The kind of aircraft Uber envisions shuttling passengers from rooftop to rooftop — electric, autonomous, with the ability to take off and land vertically— don’t exist yet, nor does the infrastructure to support such a vehicle. Experts suggest that engineering and regulatory hindrances will likely prevent flying cars from ever taking off in a meaningful way.

uber flying car road

The city’s elected officials have signed off, though Uber says it will conduct community meetings to hear resident concerns about noise, pollution, and access. Much like it did in Dallas and Dubai, Uber has signed an agreement with a local landlord, Sandstone Properties, to develop rooftop launch pads for its VTOL aircraft. The company predicts a one-and-a-half hour car journey from LAX to the Staples Center could take less than 30 minutes using a combination of flying cars and regular cars.

Mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement provided by Uber says that LA is the perfect testing ground for this new technology, and he looks forward to seeing it grow in the coming years.

The jury is out on whether an urban system would make an appreciable contribution to a next-generation transportation system, or whether it would simply be an escape hatch for the super-rich to avoid street-level congestion.

Scientists predict that fares will be very low and it will actually be cheaper to fly with Uber than your own car. And if that sounds familiar, because it's long been the company’s mission to bring about the end of personal car ownership. Aerial taxi service would just be another tool in the toolkit toward that end.

There are plenty of skeptics that say flying cars, especially electric-powered aircraft, aren’t worth pursuing. They wonder if the economics work, or if passengers would balk at getting on board a self-flying vehicle. A great inventor Elon Musk once said that he likes flying things. But it’s difficult to imagine the flying car becoming a scalable solution. He also said he’d be worried about hubcaps falling out of the sky and killing someone.

Mr. Holden who is one of the premiere inventors of the concept of the flying car answered him. He said that they had studied that carefully and they believe it is scalable. They have done the hard work to be capable of building sports and can get the throughput operationally to move tens of thousands of flights per day per city.

Well, let’s believe in better things. Because really, flying cars worth our attention.

How safe is this?

Any potential passenger will want to know: “How safe is this contraption?”

The common answer, for now, is “not very safe,” but it is normal for each technology, which is only starting to develop. Companies are working feverishly to make their aircraft “safe enough” in the hope of convincing regulators and governments that the vehicles can be entrusted with human lives. But there are incredible safety challenges. One of the biggest is what to do when things go badly wrong.

With a normal car, you can drive slowly, and stop wherever you want to. But when you are in the air and decided to stop then your flying car might fall out of the sky, and killing not only its driver and passengers but potential common people, who are going to work, or walking with pets. Also, Chinese company “Zhang” decided to propose parachutes equipment in each car to make it safer. And you know, in this situation everything seems to be not so bad, you can feel totally safe inside such a car and not to worry about being crushed, or because of having not enough gasoline. (By the way, don’t we have enough of pollution to stop making more vehicles which will infect the air?)

You may also ask a question. Why do we need those flying cars if we already have the helicopters? There is a conceptual difference between flying cars and roadable aircraft.

The latter is something that a pilot can keep in his garage, then drive to the nearest airport to fly, then drive to his destination from there.

Flying cars, on the other hand, presume operation by the average motorist. That presents a couple of problems. As long as commercial airlines are available, why would the average motorist want a flying car (at additional cost and with inferior road performance) if he is not a pilot? And if he is not a pilot, how would he be able to fly it?

The latter is the easiest to solve. Flying cars could be made to fly autonomously. Just key in a GPS destination and the on board AI takes over to fly there. Once flying cars become autonomous and do not require a pilot to operate, then the difference between them and roadable aircraft disappears.If the flying can be made autonomous, why not make the driving autonomous also? Then the passenger does not even have to drive himself to the airport or heliport. And if he does not have to know how to drive, why does he need to pay a premium price to buy his own inferior-performing road vehicle at all?

When will all this happen? We are nearly there with regard to autonomous vehicles and aircraft, but what we really need is a breakthrough in battery technology which will give us cheap electric vehicles/aircraft with a decent power-to-weight ratio and long range.

ceo of Terrafugia Carl Deitrich

Here you can see CEO/CTO and Co-Founder of Terrafugia Carl Deitrich  who speaks during the Terrafugia: “Driven to Fly forum during the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival at Spring Studio” on April 22, 2015, in New York City.

Let’s summarize all the huge problems of flying cars that no one has solved yet.

1. Need a pilot’s license. Going rate is typical $10,000. And that only covers flying single-engine aircraft in good weather. Add instrument rating (bad weather), and the cost goes to like $20,000. People seem to think that you buy a flying car, and anyone with a drivers license can fly it. Nope. Not going to happen.

2. Weight. Aircraft MUST be light to fly. Cars need to be strong to pass mandatory crash tests. Those requirements are contradictory. A Cessna 172, about the smallest 4-passenger aircraft, weighs 1,691 pounds empty. By comparison, a Toyota Corolla, a small 4-passenger car, weighs 2,870 pounds. The empty weight of the Corolla is more than 400 pounds higher than the maximum allowed weight of the Cessna! And the Corolla has no wings, no rudder, no horizontal stabilizer, etc.

3.  If you think auto insurance is expensive now, wait until a flying car is made and the premiere one gets into a fender bender. Since ONLY certified mechanics are allowed to work on aircraft, the price of a ‘fender bender’ will be HUGE, we think 4-8 TIMES the current rate. What will that do to the cost of insurance, for everyone!

4.  Confusion. Two complete sets of controls, gauges, dials, indicators, etc. are needed. In addition, all the exterior aircraft lights must be there, as well as the auto exterior lights. More complications and more weight; note that LCD panels help here for instrument panels.

5.  Costs. Even inexpensive aircraft are expensive, and trying to make one that will be both a car AND an aircraft will require fancy, expensive materials, like carbon fiber. In essence, it would cost more than Rolls-Royce. Can YOU afford a brand new Rolls-Royce? If not, then you cannot afford a flying car as well.

6.  More costs. All maintenance, beyond an oil change or changing a light bulb, must, by law, be performed by an FAA licensed mechanic. Parts must come from FAA certified vendors. All this add up to higher and higher costs, many times the cost of auto maintenance. And in an aircraft, it must be done, by law, and the aircraft must be inspected, by law, including detailed paperwork, annually.

7. Airports. Unless the flying car is a helicopter, it needs runways at both ends of the flight. That takes space, which is costly, meaning landing fees will be high. Do YOU own a house on a runway; if not, where are you going to take off? And airports charge for every landing you make-it’s their prime source of income; think of paying a tax every time you drive.

8. Air traffic control. ATC is difficult now, then think about adding hundreds of small aircraft to the mix, all wanting to go to just a few destinations. Nightmare-collisions all over the skies!

There is a simple solution.

1. Drive in your car to the airport.

2. Get in your existing aircraft, and fly to your destination.

3. After landing, rent a car.

Which one sounds cheaper and easier? Don’t make a life harder.