The Defense Advanced Research Project Administration is apparently savvy to the fact that mainstream car bloggers regularly Google search the term “Transformers,” in search of vaguely car-related (or, in some cases, not) filler. DARPA’s masterstroke? Using the one-time traffic boost title for a project:
to demonstrate a 1 to 4 person transportation vehicle that can drive and fly, thus enabling the warfighter to avoid water, difficult terrain, and road obstructions as well as IED and ambush threats.
Flying cars, and an opportunity for Transformers references? Who can resist?
Not Inside Line. They note helpfully:
The problem with the current Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles is that they have trouble safely traversing demanding battlefields like Afghanistan with such variable landscapes. A flying car would allow the military to dominate in an asymmetric warfare environment — they would have the ability to vertically take off and land anywhere as well as go over varying terrain with very few hiccups in altitude or velocity.
IL goes on to suggest a trio of companies as possible government partners, including Moller (which is well-covered at DavisWiki), Terrafugia and someone named Jeff Allen Case. None of which have produced vehicles for sale. In fact, this is about as good as it gets right now. DARPA’s announcement for Project Transformer doesn’t mention a budget, but you’ve gotta guess that the firms singled out by IL see this as the break they’ve been hoping (or paying lobbyists) for. What does DARPA think it will get out of the flying car ether (or is that vapor?) that it can’t get from say, helicopters?
Current transport systems present operational limitations where the warfighter is either anchored to the ground with HMMWVs and thus vulnerable to ambush, or reliant on helicopters, which are limited in flight speed and availability. TX provides the flexibility to adapt to traditional and asymmetric threats by providing the operator unimpeded movement over difficult terrain. In addition, transportation is no longer restricted to trafficable terrain that tends to makes movement predictable. This enables the warfighter to approach targets from directions opportune to them and not the enemy.
Or, maybe the Pentagon just bet Treasury it could find a worse auto industry investment than GM and Chrysler.