flying-car-593Terrafugia – Redefining the flying car

What exactly is a flying car?

My life is a bit unusual in that I often have conversations with people about the topic of flying cars. Since I was a child I dreamed about the day that we would have flying cars. But, other than the vague notion of the flying car that George Jetson drove each day to Spacely Sprockets, we have no real definition of the flying car, until now.

Recently, the angel-funded startup Terrafugia, headed by 2006 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize winner Carl Dietrich announced their plans to market a drivable airplane – a cool-looking plane with folding wings – as a flying car. And they’ve since endured a significant amount of criticism about their vehicle not being a “real” flying car.

But how can we make this call? Is their some definition about what it is that constitutes a flying car?

Currently, no. But I suggest we change that.

As a futurist, one prediction I can make with absolute certainty is that the first flying car will not look like the Jetson car.

With nearly 150 flying car projects currently underway, its about time we add some flesh to the bones of this concept. Let’s begin by describing some of the features that must be necessary to get the “flying car seal of approval.”

  1. Vertical takeoff and landing – A vehicle requiring a runway is not terribly useful, and therefore not a flying car.
  2. Fly-drive capabilities – The vehicle must be able to fly and drive equally well.
  3. Self-navigating – A flying car must be drivable by ”average” people. Since most people have difficulty driving on a two-dimensional road surface, the only way this industry will work is if the vehicle operates outside without the potential for human error.
  4. Car-like ease of entry – No “climbing in” or difficult forms of egress. The vehicle must reuire no more time to get in or out than a car.
  5. Car-like maneuverability – As a ground vehicle, the flying car must match the maneuverability of a car.
  6. Helicopter-like hovering capability – As an air vehicle, it must equal helicopter-like motion.
  7. Plane-like gliding ability – Over the long  haul, it must be comfortable, smooth, and easy.
  8. Plane-like speed – Since speed will be its primary benefit, it has to be fast.
  9. Consumer-grade safety features – Since we won’t be dealing with highly skilled pilots, things will go wrong. Safety features must be idiot-proof.
  10. Silent engine – I don’t believe a flying car industry will make any serious inroads until someone invents a silent or near-silent engine. A metro area with 100,000 vehicles flying overhead, each sounding like a chainsaw, will have serious opposition.

This is the list of features that I think will help define the flying car, but I’m sure I’m missing a few.  Let me know your thoughts on this topic.

9 Responses to “Some Thoughts on Flying Cars”

Comments List

  1. <a href='http://jordon.stateranch.com/spacelysprockets.html' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>spacely sprockets</a>

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    Reply
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  3. <a href='http://www.indonesiatongkatali.com' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Gaye</a>

    I suggest that the flying car should be more attractive than the picture above :). All those ten features are really brilliant. Can't wait to have a flying car if it becomes feasible!
    Reply
  4. <a href='http://www.malaysiatongkatali.com' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Kimberly Larsh</a>

    Hi Thom. You're right that it should have a silent engine. Nobody will want to ride on this if it makes you deaf. What do you think if we add the feature of invisibility? Could it be possible?
    Reply
    • admin

      Maybe partial invisibility would make sense, so people are less annoyed with thousands of cars flying overhead. Flying cars still need to see other flying cars, but it's far less important that people on the ground be able to see them.
      Reply
  5. <a href='http://www.powerwheelchair.org/' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Jorge S.</a>

    @Kim: Why would you think of invisibility? :) Maybe you are a fan of Star Gate :) Well, I like that too. @Thom: You are right, just maybe partial invisibility if it is possible. We can't have them invisible, they'll likely collide, wouldn't they? But if it should be invisible, we'll be seeing people driving up in the air without a car! Because only the car will become invisible, right?
    Reply
  6. <a href='http://www.tuitionexpert.sg/' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Eddy G.</a>

    All the features mentioned are just perfect. I could not think of anything to add to that.
    Reply
  7. <a href='http://www.electroarena.in/' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Shirish Dhungel</a>

    Flying cars will not be the best choice until it is built with hovering feature. It would be helpful where there is no availability of landing place.
    Reply
  8. <a href='http://thetongkatalishop.com' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Tongkat</a>

    I think currently we are far far away from having flying cars anywhere in the near future.
    Reply

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