The Jetsons Were So Behind The Times

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

The flying car has long been the sci-fi terminus point for automotive technology. Such automotive luminaries as Henry Ford and Glenn Curtiss have been lured into costly, fruitless developments by visions of blasting away from traffic on the wings of flight. But the vision has never translated into production reality. The Moller “Autovolanter” is no closer to production than the flux capacitor, although far more complex. Green Car Congress reports that the sky-whip uses no fewer than eight of Moller’s proprietary Rotapower rotary-hybrid engines to power the Autovolanter. The plug-in hybrid two-seater can drive 150 miles on the road before lifting off vertically and flying a further 75 miles (at up to 150 mph), carrying up to 375 lbs and achieving nearly 15 mpg in the process. Well, in theory. Development of a prototype is estimated at $5m, though Moller claims low-volume production could make the Autovolanter available for $250k. But then there’s the problem of licenses, regulation and in-city use. Says Moller founder Dr Paul Moller “flying it in US cities is not going to be politically acceptable until it has been deployed successfully in other roles and environments. Practical or not, it excites the imagination to think about being able to rise vertically out of a traffic jam and just go!” Of course legal niceties weren’t really considered during development, as the Autovolanter was prototyped at the request of a “wealthy businessman who was unable to commute from the city to his country home due to the overcrowded streets of Moscow.” Dude, just bribe the cops.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • David C. Holzman David C. Holzman on Sep 11, 2008

    There is a narrow twisty road through a wooded, very ritzy area of Wash. DC that goes over a brook several times in a row. The bridges rise and then fall so quickly, I used to love to get my '77 Toyota Corolla to fly briefly. This was challenging because between the twists, and the Corolla's lack of handling and power, I could barely get up enough speed for launch. But from what others say about Moller, above, I guess I must have done better than he did. Seriously, the notion of a flying car that would be practical anywhere with a population of more than a couple of people per square mile seems a bit over Betelgeuse.

  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Sep 12, 2008

    joeaverage, Thanks for pointing out a common misnomer about aircraft. You see, aircraft are much less dangerous to homes than cars and trucks. For some reason, we all think that there is something presently stopping cars and trucks from driving into our living rooms. In most cases, there is not. OTOH, most aircraft that actually hit houses fail to penetrate due to insufficient mass, and because they usually hit the roof which then slows them a lot before they get to the occupants. After 9/11. there were some big city mayors, Daley was the prime example, who wanted the FAA to stop private aircraft flights over their cities. Most backed off when confronted with the facts on the comparative dangers as well as the fact that a terrorist would simply ignore the rule. Daley was mostly interested in some other agenda, and kept trying. He ended up getting Chicago in a heap of a mess when he bulldozed an airfield without notice.

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Sep 17, 2008

    It might not penetrate the house but it is still carrying many gallons of fuel which would likely be spilled on the roof and could ignite say by propellers striking the sides of the engine cowl. As a home dweller you'll lose in that crash - maybe your house, maybe your life. Maybe you'll get out of the house, maybe not. FWIW the last few times I remember a private plane going down on a house (in the news) - the house either burnt or the plane did indeed go right through the roof where it proceeded to burn. Really and truly I have no expectation that my 3/4" chipboard and 2x4 truss roof is going to be able to stop a falling plane. The plane might be falling slowly (semi-control) or quickly with loss of control falling a thousand feet or more with minimal gliding. I still don't want it to fall on my house or my neighbor's house leading to spreading fire and b/c good people live there. As for cars or trucks crashing through my house - I can buy a house above the street. I can plant trees. I can put up a wall. I can't easily buy a house above the flight paths of Jetson like cars. My current house would be impossible to hit with a car or truck. Didn't buy it for that reason but it's an added benefit. Also won't be affected by "normal" floods as I am too high above the nearby creek which would have to flood 100 feet deep, not likely. It's not like these Jetson-like cars are going to appear overnight. I expect there will be enough gov't regulation to restrict their use over limited areas b/c they make a heck of a noise and people won't likely put up with them "cruising" the neighborhoods. Will be just another reason to put up neighborhoods with gates and heavy restrictions.

  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Sep 17, 2008

    joe, The news doesn't give you a good picture because they report EVERY crash into a house, and the worse it is, the wider the coverage. OTOH, they rarely carry the car crashes, and if they do, it's local only. Here is the thing. If you protect your house against cars, you will likely be seen as a nutbag. If you don't, then why worry about the less likely plane crash? If you want to live in fear, there are thousands of things that are greater threats that you likely don't take action on at all. People want to prevent use of the sky because they don't feel a desire or need to use it. How would you feel if your neighbors all decided that since they only use the street twice a day on weekdays, that they would shut it down at all other times? Or, what if they all only used public transport? How do you think they might feel about your private car? How dangerous, how unnecessary, why should my children be endanger of him running over them just because he doesn't want to take the bus?