Last week, New Hampshire became the first state to grant flying cars access to public roadways, despite the fact that they don’t currently exist.
That said, House Bill 1182 only references “roadable aircraft,” with an aim to establish a commission to study the on-road usage of non-traditional motor vehicles. While flying cars remain anchored to our collective imagination, airplanes that can be rigged to drive on public roads technically already exist.
New Hampshire is just attempting to give them some leeway via the bill while also slipping in some new laws making it easier to revoke licenses if someone ever refuses to take a blood test, as well as withholding motor vehicle registration renewal privileges to anybody found driving in a “manner that evades toll collection.” There are also numerous revisions to construction projects related to tolling within the state. You didn’t think Bill 1182 would just be about establishing inspection and registration requirements for flying cars, did you?
Few topics anger this writer as much as the so-called “flying car.” Much like the massive airships Popular Mechanics assured us were right around the corner back in the mid 1990s, the flying car seems more like a tech writer’s fever dream than a viable and imminent form of transport.
For starters, they’re mainly just helicopters, though some aircraft would provide “last mile” service to the rider’s final destination using a motor and steerable wheels. The vehicles/aircraft would be autonomous, too. It sounds like a regulatory nightmare awash in red tape.
One company pursuing such a product is Audi, though the automaker recently admitted its dreams aren’t even close to becoming a reality. It’s now paring things back.
When Elon Musk announced Tesla was developing a new Roadster, he promised us the moon. When released, the car is supposed to yield a 0-to-60 time of just 1.9 seconds and possess an all-electric range over 620 miles, thanks to its sizable, 200-kWh battery pack. As if that wasn’t ambitious enough, he spent last week outlining an optional SpaceX package that includes “cold-air thrusters” that might allow the vehicle to fly.
Then he said he was serious.
As you know, flying cars are bullshit. The closest we’ve come after decades of work are road-going airplanes. But Musk asserted over Twitter that some variants of the Roaster would fly or, at the very least, be able to hover. This has to be a joke, right?
The flying car repeatedly proves itself as the dumbest idea since the industrial revolution kicked off. With the exception of takeoffs and landings, aircraft don’t need roads and automobiles aren’t really engineered for the sky. They’re typically far too heavy and have aerodynamics intended to keep them on the ground. A good car does not make for a good plane, and vice versa.
While a few flying cars do exist, they’re really just airplanes modified to allow for car-like earthbound driving. Functional, but not particularly effective on the road. That’s why the industry is shifting toward designs more akin to helicopters. The newest trend is to supersize drones and affix them to the top of lightweight self-driving automobiles.
That appears to be the direction Audi is headed in its partnership with Airbus. But surely this is engineering at is most masturbatory. If you’ll excuse the pun, these kinds of projects never really get off the ground. We see concept designs, hear some lofty promises, and then nothing ever comes of it. Moller International has been working on its SkyCar for decades and now the company is trading at a penny per share with nothing to show for itself but a concept capable of covering a couple feet from the pavement.
What does Audi have that’s so different?
Uber Technologies Inc.’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, predicts a nearish future where civilians whiz around in sky-bound automobiles.
“There will be people flying around Dallas, Texas,” Khosrowshahi said at the Digital Life Design conference in Munich, his first work-related appearance in Europe since taking over as Uber’s CEO last year. “I think it’s going to happen within the next ten years.”
Considering we’ve been waiting on flying cars for roughly 100 years, what’s another decade?
We’re kidding, of course. Anyone with a modicum of common sense understands that mass-produced floating automobiles are pure fantasy. Work on such vehicles hasn’t really progressed all that swiftly and there’s been no breakthroughs in the technology, either. The best anyone seems to be able to do is build massive drones ( which crash) or automobiles that can be converted into airplanes.
Does that make Khosrowshahi a bearded liar?
We need to have a candid discussion about flying cars. Automobiles and airplanes entered into the mainstream around the same time, and we’ve talked about combining them into a singular platform ever since. While nobody has successfully pulled it off, we keep acting like the technology is right around the corner. The closest we’ve gotten are the Terrafugia Transition and Pal-V One. However, both of those products make major on-road sacrifices, undergo a pre-flight metamorphosis, and require regular access to a runway. They’re still not representative of anything we’d consider a real car.
Lack of success hasn’t stopped automakers from dabbling in the field of aviation. Toyota has purchased Cartivator Resource Management in the hopes that its “flying car” expertise will yield a vehicle capable of lighting the torch at the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo. Still, based on the firm’s progress to date, we can only imagine the attempt ending in a globally broadcast fiery disaster.
The world’s first commercial flying car is, tentatively, here.
Dutch company PAL-V is now taking pre-orders for its new airworthy car, the Liberty. It will be offered in two trim levels: the base Liberty Sport, and the Liberty Pioneer. Either will be enough for your dangerously sexy lifestyle.
One of my favourite childhood cartoons was The Jetsons, an animated sitcom where technology had transformed the world into a futuristic utopia. The intro of every Jetsons episode features the family commuting in a flying car.
Last Thursday, Uber published a white paper promising flying cars in the next decade. After 60 years as a cartoon, are The Jetsons becoming a reality?
Most Americans only know Bratislava for two equally horrifying reasons: it is the setting for the blowtorch-to-the-eyeball-scene in Hostel and it’s the place where they make the Porsche Cayenne. Before anybody gets too upset, Hostel was entirely fiction… but before anybody feels too relieved, the Cayenne is definitely real.
Now there’s a third reason to remember the former Gem Of The Eastern Bloc: a flying car!
“For 100 years, people have been dreaming about flying cars,” says, well, a promotion video that attempts to drum up investor interest for a flying car. Despite many attempts, we don’t see many flying cars, nether flying, nor driving. At TTAC, the story is as old as the old Farago-era layout. Fear not, flying cars will be here, real soon now, promise. One will even be at the New York Auto Show.
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