Next on the science fiction list becoming reality: Flying Cars!

Flying_Car_at_New_York_International_Auto_Show_2012

Just as we’ve been letting the idea of self-driving vehicles sink in, another science fiction fantasy is becoming a reality. The tech industry is all about using artificial intelligence, so the next step after driverless cars appears to be flying ones.

The flying cars don’t look exactly like Harry Potter’s Ford Anglia in the Chamber of Secrets. Instead, the models range from sleek (see photo that accompanies this article) or something made out of spare parts.

The dream of a flying car has been embraced by at least a dozen start-up companies — Kitty Hawk, Airbus, Uber, PAL-V, Terrafugia, Xplorair and the government of Dubai to name a few.

Larry Page, a Google founder, and his flying car company Kitty Hawk, is trying to be the first one to sell his car to the public. He’s projecting to the end of the year and lots of folks are betting that he’ll do it. They point to the fact that his chief executive is Sebastian Thrun, an influential technologist and a self-driving car pioneer.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, the Kitty Hawk Flyer is one of several prototypes the start-up, based in Mountain View, Calif., is designing. The company hopes to create an audience of enthusiasts and hobbyists, who can pay $100 to sign up for a $2,000 discount on the retail price of a Flyer to “gain exclusive access to Kitty Hawk experiences and demonstrations where a select few will get the chance to ride the Flyer.”

It is an unusual offer, since the company has yet to set a price for the vehicle, and Mr. Thrun’s and Mr. Page’s involvement can be taken as evidence that the company is aiming beyond hobbyists. Still, Kitty Hawk is clearly targeting a new kind of transportation — air flight that can be performed safely by most people and hopefully with government approval.

“We have been in contact with the F.A.A. and we see the regulators as friends,” Mr. Thrun said in an interview. He agreed that concerns about vehicles flying over our heads were legitimate. “I believe that all of us have to work together to understand how new technologies will shape the future of technology,” he said.

The Times further reported that at the Geneva International Motor Show last month, Airbus proposed an autonomous vehicle named “Pop Up” that would operate on the ground and in the air. And this year, the government of Dubai, in partnership with a Chinese firm, EHang, said it planned to begin operating an autonomous flying taxi in July. Also, Uber is expected to soon detail its “vision for the future of “Urban Air Mobility”.

Obstacles facing flying cars

For flying cars to become part of everyday transportation, they will first have to overcome some significant obstacles.

  • Despite the many technical challenges and governmental regulations such companies might face, the biggest one might be to convince the public that the idea isn’t nutso.
  • Their noise level has to come down.
  • The U.S. would need a new air traffic control system (which it does need anyway).
  • Batteries provide the energy source for flying cars. Today’s batteries cannot support flights of any reasonable distance (like a short 30-mile commute to work). Propeller-driven motors are seen as the future, but that may be a long way off and those kinda sound like airplanes.
  • Battery fires are a concern (think cellphones).
  • Cars can pull off to the side of the road, if there is a problem. Where do flying cars pull off?

So folks, what do you think? Will flying cars ever be able to become a reality for the everyday worker to use to go to work? Will families be able to take vacations in them? Can you take a quick flight to Kroger’s or Walmart for some quick shopping?

Let me hear from you. Just one thing – they said man could never walk on the moon.

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Attribution: Anthony22 at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Source: New York Times

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