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Transportation Technology

Where Are the Flying Cars? 362

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the not-yet-in-the-flying-garage dept.
Ponca City, We Love You writes "Complaints of the non-existence of flying cars as expressions of disappointment in the failure of the present to measure up to the glory of past predictions have long been a staple of popular culture but all that is about to change when Terrafugia introduces their $148,000 "Transition," a 19-foot, two-seater that the company describes as a roadable light-sport aircraft. The problem is that the U.S. doesn't have the infrastructure in place to make landing in front of your house a viable alternative yet and a sky filled with people who don't have pilot's licenses could also be a problem. The idea is to take advantage of the 6,000 public airports in the U.S. so a pilot can fly into a small airport (video) and instead of getting a rental car, just fold up the wings on the aircraft and drive away. Terrafugia expects the first production model to be ready in 2009 and says they've already received advanced orders for 30 to 50 Transitions."
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Where Are the Flying Cars?

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  • by CheddarHead (811916) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @12:32PM (#21307001)
    Man those folded up wings make for some gigantic blind spots when you're driving on the road.
    • by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @01:32PM (#21307473) Journal
      Yeah, exactly. A flying car isn't the same as a driving airplane. This is just an airplane that can drive. A flying car will be able to take off and land in my driveway. It will be able to sit there stalled in traffic 10 feet above the air. Don't tell me this stuff is impossible, don't tell me I can't drive it because there's 'no infrastructure,' I saw this stuff in Fifth Element, and when I say flying car, that's what I mean. None of this, 'drive home from the airport' jazz.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by spaglia2 (1187227)
        Do you realize how much money spent on infrastructure (highways) would be saved if we could get cars EVEN A FEW INCHES above the surface?
        • by joto (134244)
          Yeah, that would reduce the wear and tear on the roads immensely. Ground planes are pretty easy to design and create. The only problem with using them instead of cars, is that prefer to go straight ahead at a fixed speed. Which pretty much means that it would be like a car without brakes or a steering wheel (at least no sharp turns or abrupt accelerations). But watch out, ground planes work well on water, and will probably eventually replace some of the current high-speed boats and ferrys, such as katamaran
    • by camperslo (704715)
      I guess this means I'm going to need uninsured motorized coverage for my house.
      • Forget that passive stuff. I've investing in the company that makes shoulder fired side winders.

        "Damn teenagers, I'll fix their wagon!"
  • Safety... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Legionaire (834947)
    Have they done some crash test as a road car?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by m2943 (1140797)
      Even if it is crash-safe for the occupants, any small fender bender will probably render the plane unsafe for flying.
  • You can't generalise about the outcome of future predictions. If you could, I could save the world by claiming we will eradicate all diseases in 50 years time. As we have no flying cars, a generalisation would lead us to beleive we would in fact find dramatic new medical techniques as a result, unfortunately reality doesn't work that way. Having said that, I'd love for somebody to prove me wrong.
    • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @12:54PM (#21307187) Homepage Journal
      I wish people would quit complaining about not having their flying cars anyway. It's a stupid fantasy that might be possible, but it's just not that practical. Not only is there this issue of requiring a landing strip, which takes land and only one craft can use it at the same time, a dozen cars at highway speed can use the same length of the same strip.

      Something optimized for good flying won't do very well on the land.

      Not only that, there's ever increasing pressure on energy supplies and people are somehow duped into thinking that they can afford to fly? Airplane fuel costs a little more and you'll be using a lot more of it to stay in the air, maybe two or three times as much. If you don't like spending $50/mo to $100/mo on gas, I doubt you'd like to spend $200/mo or more to cover the same distance. The cost to rent a plane is at least $60/hr depending on your region and the plane. That will cover more distance than two hours in a car, but there's plenty of preflight prep that takes time too. The plane my dad rents wouldn't take four people and cargo, it's four people or you take away people to be able to take cargo. Balance is a big concern too.

      It costs about $5000 in training and expenses to learn how to fly. That training expense is not going to go down that much, because there's a lot to learn about flying that's not needed in order to drive a car. Given how so many drivers seem pretty dumb about driving, I don't think I'd want them in the air at all. There's a lot more regulation, for good reason too, damage in crashing a car is trivial compared to the damage you can do in a small plane.
      • by vtcodger (957785) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @01:15PM (#21307357)
        Flying cars aren't really impractical, but flying cars for the masses look to be many decades away.

        There are three huge problems that need to be solved

        • Most types of aircraft are either fuel hogs or can't take off and land without a runway. Unless and until we get some power source "too cheap to meter", flying cars are likely to be like the one in the article. Mediocre aircraft and probably worse cars.
        • There is no chance that the average person can fly or control anything other than a balloon without being a menace to themself; other fliers; and people, property, and livestock on the ground. Computers can surely overcome this eventually -- but not this decade. We can't even design voting machines that work. (Not to mention that the US ATC system has been on the verge of breaking for decades handling the comparatively small number aircraft that are currently in the air.)
        • Broken cars stop. Broken aircraft drop. Flying cars are going to require safety standards far beyond what we are used to for ground cars.

        I imagine that we'll have flying cars in our garages some day. But not any time soon.

        So I guess that basically I agree with you.

        • by hackstraw (262471) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @02:11PM (#21307791)
          Flying cars aren't really impractical

          I believe they are impractical. I've flown a plane, been in planes, and known people that own planes, and for almost all transportation needs, planes simply suck.

          Planes are great for long distance travel (today). Going from say New York City, to London, I would take a plane over walking, swimming, boating, cycling, or anything. A plane is a no brainer for that travel with today's technology.

          But traveling by plane 1/4 to 1/2 of the distance across the US, is not as clearly a winner as going from NY to London. Timewise, it takes at least 1/2 to one full day to fly. When you fly, you have to leave behind lots of materials that you might want to take with you. Flying costs go up basically linearly with each passenger (loading up a car actually goes down in cost). Flying is not really that fun. You spend lots of time in overpriced airports with silly things to occupy your time until your connecting flight arrives.

          Flying cars? (Didn't read article :) But I'm guessing that the thought here is instead of these ground hugging vehicles, that putting them off the ground would add some value. Well, I guess you would not be bound to the existing roads, you could travel a straight line or a more scenic route, or something, but every day I hear about traffic accidents, traffic jams, road construction, and all of this.

          To me, a better way of expending ones efforts is in some kind of mass transit or people mover kind of thing. I'm American, so I have little experience with these things. Cabs, busses, trains, moving sidewalks, trollies, all of these things simply do not exist in much of the US. We drive cars. Many of us now drive unarmored tanks to get to work and to buy things at the store.

          I believe that the answers for this is in the educated/research community along with government regulations and forethought. Left up to individuals, if the gas prices here would not keep going up, I would guess that people would be picking up their kids from school and driving to work in M1 tanks or something.

          I do not have an answer, but I can speak the question. The question is: What is the best way in terms of cost, speed, and environmental factors to move people and goods from place to place that works well at high volume times (rush hour) AND for those occasional times (like moving, new construction, or whatnot)?

          As it stands now, people suck at answering this question, probably because nobody has actually asked it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by joto (134244)

            The question is: What is the best way in terms of cost, speed, and environmental factors to move people and goods from place to place that works well at high volume times (rush hour) AND for those occasional times (like moving, new construction, or whatnot)?

            Walking. It takes less space, works well in crowded areas, the energy usage is low, and the health benefits immense. It is guaranteed to work regardless of gas prices, or shortage. The downside is that it only works at very low speed, so it's best for

            • by Nazlfrag (1035012) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @07:45PM (#21309717) Journal
              For a different tradeoff, roller blades and skateboards make fun, rapid, highly portable transportation that requires little cost and maintenance, but does require paved surfaces. Cycling is also good in this respect, though a bike isn't as easy to carry around and usually requires secure lockup facilities. Hitching lifts has gone out of style, but it is still something easy to arrange with friends and coworkers. Even frequent taxi usage can cost far less than car hire or ownership. Swimming is great exercise and large goods such as a king size bed can be floated on pontoons for easy shipping. Rappelling is a cheap and affordable method of descending cliffs. Hang gliding also works, as does transcendental levitation. Lastly, you could get a Segway but you're not quite that desperate to look like a fool.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by modecx (130548)
          I don't agree with bullet #1. A well designed, 2-4 passenger, general aviation aircraft shouldn't burn all that much fuel. Sure, some burn more than others, but when you consider a Mooney can do about 200mph, at 20,000 feet and burn around a little less than 10 gallons per hour--that's about 20 miles per gallon, which is pretty good considering you're cooking along at 200mph.

          The real problem is that features which work good on aircraft (especially aerodynamics which help increase speed reduce fuel consump
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mcrbids (148650)
          Broken cars stop. Broken aircraft drop. Flying cars are going to require safety standards far beyond what we are used to for ground cars.

          Common misconception. Most people think of a "stall" like a car, where the motor dies. But in a plane, a "stall" has almost nothing to do with the engine, it has to do with the "angle of attack" and the airspeed, and simply means that your wings have stopped lifting the plane. Recovering from a stall is so easy that if you simply let go of the yoke, the plane will almost a
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pipatron (966506)

        Not only is there this issue of requiring a landing strip

        A helicopter does not need any.

        Something optimized for good flying won't do very well on the land.

        1. If it flies it does not need to work on land.
        2. Something optimized for good flying and land operation would do very well on both.

        you'll be using a lot more of it to stay in the air, maybe two or three times as much.

        Emphasis maybe. An average car 40 years ago maybe used two or three times as much as an average car today.

        because there's a lot to learn about flying that's not needed in order to drive a car.

        Legacy and irrelevant. A modern small plane does not need a pilot, and can be fully automated.

        damage in crashing a car is trivial compared to the damage you can do in a small plane

        Crashing in high speed into another car: Both drivers die, people in the vicinity get hurt. Crashing in high speed into another small plane:

        • by khallow (566160)

          you'll be using a lot more of it to stay in the air, maybe two or three times as much.

          Emphasis maybe. An average car 40 years ago maybe used two or three times as much as an average car today.

          Nonsense. Take a car, any era. How much power does it expend to stay on the ground? Nothing. You can turn the engine off and use no energy to stay in one place. For a flying car, it is always expending power just to stay in the air (mass of air being pushed around per unit time times the square of the velocity change in that air divided by 2).

          • by pipatron (966506)
            A flying car, much like a land-locked car, does not use any power when staying on ground. There's no need to stay in the air unless you are actually moving somewhere.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by peragrin (659227)
          helicopters have two main problems.

          1)They are noisy. Don't underestimate this.
          2) under massive use and infrequent repair conditions like the average person treats their car the helicopters would have a high failure rate. Look at Afganastan and Iraq. Choppers go down almost monthly. a large enough percentage of those are just mechanical failures. Even if it is only 5% 5% percent in civilian fleet is thousands and thousands.

          What we should have more of though are helicopter taxi's. especially for the s
          • by pipatron (966506)

            helicopters have two main problems.

            This is why we don't call them flying cars, and why people in general don't own helicopters. I merely used it as en example of airborn vehicles that does not need a landing strip.

            Another example could be a balloon, a rocket, or a bird.

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          A helicopter is vastly more complicated to fly both for a computer and a human. They are also less efficient than a plane for transporting people and cargo from one place to another. They make up for their not so efficient part by being more maneuverable.

          Also, you cannot optimize for both land and air. That's the whole point of optimizing. There are trade-offs to consider. Something perfect for land would have no wings, and no propeller. Something made to fly needs both.

          Although flight could be
          • by pipatron (966506)

            you cannot optimize for both land and air

            Of course you can, just that a vehicle optimized for both land and air won't be as efficient on land as a vehicle that did not have to take air transportation in mind. If you optimize for land and air, you can still leave out things like optimizing for space travel, water travel, underground travel etc.

            Just imagine the lawsuits when the flying car computer malfunctions, and the driver has no idea how to fly

            Shouldn't be much different from the lawsuits from when a pilot, or the security regulations on a regular jet malfunctions. You as a passenger does still not have any means to operate the regular jet, and

        • Crashing in high speed into another car: Both drivers die, people in the vicinity get hurt. Crashing in high speed into another small plane: Both drivers die, people in the vicinity get hurt. Safety will increase by magnitudes when you are not restricted to driving in an almost 1-dimensional space, but rather have full access to the air.

          You can also fall out of the sky for no known good reason and crash into someone's house. (Except if the car is made in China, in which case you will have a known good reaso

      • Additionally, even mildly bad weather would kill hundreds of flying-car drivers.

        I'm talking about bad weather like fog or 25 MPH winds or heavy rain. Any weather that even slows down road traffic will kill the "drivers" of flying cars. The wings will ice up, the low visibility will lead to crashes into other flying cars and ground-based obstacles, the wind will cause stalls or blow the drivers into things, hail will damage the wings, etc.

        Piloting an aircraft is a skill. Not crashing an aircraft is becaus
      • by Dare nMc (468959)

        you'll be using a lot more of it to stay in the air, maybe two or three times as much.

        I can't think of a single rule of physics that makes this a necessity. Planes do throw away some drag to lift, but cars do this as well. From what I gather it can cost as much as $2 per car mile for roads in California due to overpasses, maintenance, cost of land...

        The reason you have 200hp cars is because they constantly accelerate, and brake. So if airplanes alleviate traffic issues needing to stop and start, and redu

  • Sky Rage... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by creimer (824291) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @12:37PM (#21307053) Homepage
    So what is the Highway Patrol going to do when some jerk decides that the speed limit is meant to be broken and flies above the commuter lane? Normal road driving is scary enough as it is.
    • What makes you think that you would have any control over the speed at all? If personal aerocars ever "take off" they are going to be heavily automated, and will be restricted by the control software as to how fast they can go, and where they can go.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by creimer (824291)
        I would assume that the iCar would eventually get hacked to overcome these limits. But to have flying bricks come crashing down out of the sky probably wouldn't be a good idea. :)
    • by Cassini2 (956052)

      In Ontario, the speed limit only applies while you have wheels on the ground. In the air, you have no speed limit.

      The flight simulators also have the 401 highway on the maps near the airport. I think the 747 pilots practice emergency landings on the 401 too. In a real emergency, this might be necessary. I don't think it has ever been tested with a big plane, because it is difficult to get the cars off the highway first.

      • by Cecil (37810)
        In Ontario, the speed limit only applies while you have wheels on the ground. In the air, you have no speed limit.

        But there is an altitude limit. Except when taking off from or landing at a Transportation Canada certified aerodrome (all highways in the vicinity must be marked for low flying aircraft) you must not fly lower than 1000ft AGL over a built up or urban area, which includes highways. And yes, they do enforce this with radar and altitude transponders.

        There is effectively no way to breach that legal
    • by Lumpy (12016)
      Hell with skyrage. Can you imagine those other "people" that you drive around every day having to deal with 3 dimensions of motion? they can barely handle 1.5 dimensions of motion we have in a car. (steering left and right is a half, I'll give you two when you can drive sideways.)

      These people can't safely drive a car, god help us all if they get flying cars. If you run out of gas, or refuse to fix your car like so many do, when the engine stops you plummet to the ground.

  • hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @12:37PM (#21307055)
    The tail fins kinda remind me of a '57 Chevy [hemmings.com]. I noticed thespecs [terrafugia.com] on the transition mentioned a 100hp engine. Will that engine drive both the prop and the wheels? If so, my mom's neon would leave this thing in the dust.

    In all, I see this as a largely impractical vehicle. I would have a good laugh if I saw a car with wings folded vertically going down the highway.
    • Good luck backing the thing OUT of the garage. Near as I can tell from the animation video, the rear and rear-quarter visibility, when the wings are folded, is zero.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mcrbids (148650)
      In all, I see this as a largely impractical vehicle. I would have a good laugh if I saw a car with wings folded vertically going down the highway.

      You are, eh, kidding... right? This (for me) would be the PERFECT business vehicle... I frequently travel on mid-range hops. Typical trip is around 200-500 miles. Just far enough that I spend *alot* of time driving, and where taking a plane (Hello, SouthWest!) along with the hotel expenses, rental car, etc. is only marginally better than driving.

      So, I got my pilot
  • Not new (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bombula (670389) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @12:38PM (#21307061)
    The idea of a roadable fixed-wing aircraft is just about as old as flight itself. I've seen black and white film clips of these sorts of things driving down urban streets, to give you an idea of how long the notion has been around. For whatever reason, it just hasn't ever caught on.

    The Moller skycar is a little more revolutionary, since it takes off and lands vertically, and since it has multiple engines - how many of these Transitions are going to be crashed by celebrities when the one engine conks out? But Moller's stuff has been vaporware for twenty years, so don't hold your breath.

    • The idea of a roadable fixed-wing aircraft is just about as old as flight itself. I've seen black and white film clips of these sorts of things driving down urban streets, to give you an idea of how long the notion has been around. For whatever reason, it just hasn't ever caught on.

      They haven't caught on because they don't actually as well in practice as the dreamers always predict they will - mostly because the stuff needed to be a car makes it too heavy to be an airplane.

  • 4dartist (Score:2, Funny)

    by jessiej (1019654)
    Well, if anything, it's a great promotion for Benjamin Schweighart's business.
  • Not VTOLs? (Score:4, Informative)

    by 4D6963 (933028) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @12:45PM (#21307099)

    There are roads, not runways, in front of houses, grocery stores and office buildings.

    Shouldn't flying cars be VTOLs? I always thought so. I don't think it would be a good idea if a "driver" couldn't just "pull over" (understand, get stationary) and had to properly land on an airport. Just imagine running out of gas in the middle of nowhere..

    Anyways, somehow, I feel that in a few decades, we'll enjoy affordable and easily operatable (understand, mostly automated) flying cars, and that we'll mostly enjoy the greater safety, although it would seem counter-intuitive that a flying car would be safer than a normal car (but on a second thought it's easier to avoid trees and obstacles when you're 1,000 feet high, not to mention the cars in the opposite way lane wouldn't necessarily have to come as close as one foot from your vehicle, in the air you have more space).

    But back on topic, I don't see people taking off and landing horizontally, too dangerous, VTOLs are a must.

    • Re:Not VTOLs? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by metlin (258108) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @01:02PM (#21307249) Journal
      Okay, here are some pictures [metlin.org] from what happened in our apartment's parking garage just last night.

      Someone drove through the wall fast enough (in a parking garage) to cause a hole through the wall and their car fell off into the street.

      Now, imagine a world full of these drivers, flying their cars over our houses and schools. Oh yeah, joy.

      I mean, VTOLs are a great idea, but as long as they don't land on *my* terrace I am happy. There is no dearth of idiot drivers in this world and all that.
  • by koan (80826) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @12:47PM (#21307127)
    Do you want the same people you see tailgating, talking on their cell phones, and doing 45 in the fast lane, or drunk flying in the air?
    I didn't think so.

    Only way it would work is if it was all fully automated with no or little human intervention.
  • 1) a 4-8 seater collapsible airship with a practical max speed of 200km/h (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airship), for long distance travel which doesn't need a ground crew

    2) an ultralight helicopter like the Mosquito or the Airscooter.

    I would prefer a personal airship, though.
  • by Womens Shoes (1175311) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @12:50PM (#21307149) Homepage
    I don't think flying cars will ever make much sense. Barring some absolutely physics-defying discovery, it takes a relatively huge amount of energy to keep a vehicle off the ground, and it's not clear to me what the advantage is (other than being terrifically cool). When you're traveling point-to-point on the surface of a ball it's just not worth it most of the time.

    Steering, stopping, and idling in the air are far more expensive and imprecise because you've got nothing fixed to hold on to -- we get a lot of freebies by being in contact with the ground.

    I think it's apparent too (or soon will be) that one of the great challenges for mankind going forward is how to do everything we do more efficiently, not less. The technology bottleneck is going to be energy acquisition.

    So sure, this may be a nice addition to the lineup of available planes, but I don't think we'll see "flying cars" in our lifetime, if by that we mean "ubiquitous airborne personal transportation".
    • by kmac06 (608921) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @01:56PM (#21307665)
      it takes a relatively huge amount of energy to keep a vehicle off the ground

      That's really only true currently from an engineering perspective, not a physics perspective. A significant force needs to be applied, but since the force is being applied perpendicular to the direction of motion, it does no work. For example, a balloon filled with helium doesn't use any energy to stay in the air.
    • Steering, stopping, and idling in the air are far more expensive
      So we'll use the same tech in Hybrid vehicles we use today, duh!

      (yes, it's a [terrible] joke!)
  • by RyoShin (610051) <tukaro@@@gmail...com> on Saturday November 10, 2007 @12:51PM (#21307169) Homepage Journal

    a sky filled with people who don't have pilot's licenses could also be a problem.
    That's my largest concern. Some fund baby will purchase one of these things, try to apply makeup while flying, and crash into my house. Hopefully we can update our laws to accommodate this type of situation before they actually come in use. I'm thinking another class of license- you have one for motorcycles, for limos, etc., how about a class of driver's license that works with planes (but you have to have passed a flight school to get)?

    Personally, I'd rather they work on a hoverboard.
    • by (H)elix1 (231155) *
      Our house was hit by a drunk driver - one of those interesting tidbits they had to disclose when we purchased it. For a 'flying car' to qualify under sport aircraft regs, they are limited to 1,320 pounds maximum takeoff weight - that includes fuel and 1-2 people. My 1962 Stitts Playboy, which now qualifies as a light sport aircraft, weights in lighter than my old FJ-1100 motorcycle by comparison. Point being, sport aircraft don't really have the mass most autos do if they hit something. An impact with a
      • by RyoShin (610051)

        An impact with a 'flying car' (under these sport rules) scares me far less than the typical car -- never mind the behemoth SUV's and trucks.
        Ah. However, while I'm no housing engineer or architect, I would think the roof would be able to repel less force than the walls, so the weight difference may just wind up in the same amount of destruction.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Those sport aircraft are just that, for sport. They aren't really that practical for travel where you may want to transport your family around, or carry a bunch of luggage.
        • by Fred_A (10934)

          Those sport aircraft are just that, for sport.
          What kind of sport would that be ? Can you play polo or basketball with one ?

    • by ezHiker (659512) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @01:24PM (#21307429)
      I'm not worried at all. The bottom line is that this is nothing more than an airplane with extended taxi capabilities. There's no way that the FAA would allow the Transition in the air without a licensed pilot at the controls. Any fund baby who wants to fly one of these things will have to take all of the same private pilot flight training that anyone would have to today to fly their Cessna 172 or Piper Cherokee. If they want to fly in bad weather then they will have to train for an instrument rating, as well.

      What I really have a tough time believing is that they would be able to sell this for $148,000. Most new light aircraft are already more expensive than this, and come without foldable wings, powered wheels, etc. By the way, most airplanes are expensive because of product liability litigation, not because its expensive to make an airplane. I don't see why this one would be exempt from this fact.
    • by jamstar7 (694492)

      Some fund baby will purchase one of these things, try to apply makeup while flying, and crash into my house.

      Look at the bright side. Not only will you get to meet Paris Hilton's coroner, you'll also be able to sue that trust and get your own flying car.

  • ummm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday November 10, 2007 @12:52PM (#21307177) Homepage
    From the article:

    "We're not going to have a flying car, as people think of it, for a while," said Anna Dietrich, chief operating officer of the Woburn, Mass.-based company. "I would never say it's not going to happen, but today the infrastructure is not there, nor is the training, nor are the avionics that would make the training unnecessary... What makes sense right now is a roadable aircraft."

    Ok, sure. THAT'S why we don't have a flying car--we don't have the infrastructure, training, or avionics. Give me a break.

    What about a viable PROPULSION SYSTEM. I mean give me a break, you really think what's holding back flying cars is "training" and "infrastructure"? That's like saying what's holding back faster-than-light travel is our schools just aren't graduating enough hyperspace drive engineers.
    • by imsabbel (611519)
      No, he is perfectly right.
      Even if you discover antigravity tomorrow, it will only cause people drive their hummer v4_hover into the sears tower, do mitair collision, get horribly lost with fog/clouds , ect.
      Infrastructure, too.
      how would you scale the logistics up to orders of magnitudes more objects in the air that can potentially in each others way?
      How would you create the capacity for emergency response for ill-mentained fly_cars?

      Propulsion (totally sci-fi a la larry niven excluded) is the smallest problem
    • That's like saying what's holding back faster-than-light travel is our schools just aren't graduating enough hyperspace drive engineer

      That isn't really a problem. We can always bring them in on H1-B's, anyway.
  • by orbz (939720) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @12:57PM (#21307207) Homepage
    Worry not, the investigative team at the Onion News Network is all over this issue of the blatant lack of flying cars, and are demanding answers from the big auto manufacturers.

    http://www.theonion.com/content/video/mean_automakers_dash_nations_hope [theonion.com]
  • by Nonillion (266505) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @01:02PM (#21307243)
    This won't happen till we have vehicles that use anti-gravity technology. Relying on forced air levitation is just TOO RISKY, the vehicle needs to loose ALL power and still not fall from the sky.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Faylone (880739)
      Uh, I'd assume that such an anti-gravity device would also need power, and that its power failing would still end up with a nice fall, but a very nasty stop at the bottom.
      • Not necessarily. As long as you're envisioning impossible tech, imagine "anti-ballast", the opposite of a weight (but instead of lighter than air gas like dirigibles, roughly the same size as lead weights would be). Build the frame out of the stuff.

        Then you only need the engine for anti-anti-gravity, and a mooring so you don't have to leave the engine running to pick up your groceries. Then if it fails, you just float up to the equilibrium altitude and await rescue.
  • infrastructure (Score:3, Informative)

    by fermion (181285) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @01:02PM (#21307251) Homepage Journal
    doesn't have the infrastructure in place to make landing in front of your house a viable alternative

    I don't know about other people, but around where I live we don't have the infrastructure for the cars people want to drive. One Hummer parked on the side of the road, and there simply is not room for anything bigger than a Vespa to pass. With the building of the houses, many without adequate garages, I find an increasing number of roads to be impassable. Road that just a year ago were navigable and safe, have become impassable and risky due to the vehicles and driving habits of the new residents. God help us if they got a hold of flying cars.

    Here is my idea of the use of flying cars. People who want to live in the suburbs can either build their houses for flying cars or drive their regular cars to a departure area. They can then fly to the bus, and take the bus in the 10-15 miles downtown. For may people, it would be no different from what they do now.

  • by iphayd (170761) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @01:02PM (#21307253) Homepage Journal
    Many people think that flying cars would be really cool. I don't (and I love flying.)

    Why on earth would anyone want that teenager/clothes changer/parent/eater/drunk driver to be piloting anything over my house, head, or anything else. It's bad enough that we have drunk pilots, but imagine the nightmare when it is really difficult to be "pulled over", as that involves landing somewhere unscheduled.

    Not to mention the noise and air pollution. Go up in a hot air balloon, and you'll realize how well sound travels when there is nothing to block it. When you're up, you can have a conversation with two people on he ground at the same time- but they could be a half mile apart from each other. Listen for the airliner flying at 50,000 feet. You can hear it, although faint. Now listen for the cessna flying over head at 1000 feet. Imagine the sky filled with that sound from hundreds of them.

    Please people, the fact that we don't have flying cars is a good thing.
  • Won't Happen (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Centurion5 (1180605)
    The designers must not be familiar with either the United States D.O.T. rules governing cars on the road OR the F.A.A's rules governing manufacturered aircraft. IF such a car/plane could be manufactured to meet both sets of standards it would NOT be under $150,000 or anywhere close. A kit sold in Popular Mechanics for $150,000 maybe, but my guess is that a manufactured version would top $1,000,000 by the time it meets all the regulations, is certified and has product liability insurance on it. For the f
  • by hyades1 (1149581)

    The reason there's never been a "skycar" has always been computing, not engineering. I look at the idiots I see every day on the roads and the idea of letting them get a thousand or so pounds up where it can do some real damage scares the crap out of me. I'll even allow that I haven't been perfect. Though I've never been in an accident that was my fault, I'm sure that's because some other driver was more alert than I was at some time.

    Bottom line: until there was a computer that could fly a plane safel

  • ...until one actually gets produced and you can point us to a page that shows video of the thing working properly.

    In the mean time, you might as well point us to Heinline short stories and YouTube clips of Luke zipping around on his landspeeder.

  • by Z00L00K (682162) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @01:11PM (#21307313) Homepage
    1. Safety for everyone on the ground.
    2. Safety for driver and passengers.
    3. Economics - gas prices will go up.
    4. Legal issues - Is it a car or an aircraft? It may have to cope with regulations from both domains.
    5. It will be a great getaway-vehicle for bankrobbers.
    6. Terrorist anybody?
    There may be more reasons too...
  • Terrafugia ... says they've already received advanced orders for 30 to 50 Transitions.
    Either you have an order or you don't. You cannot express the number of advanced orders received as a range unless you want to tip off a world full of rational reasonable people that you're simply blowing smoke.
  • Not In My Back Yard

    and I like it to stay that way
  • People have enough trouble driving a vehicle that only has X and Y axes. And some folks keep wondering when they'll be given the Z axis, too. I don't think it'll happen until computer control of cars, their navigation, and driving has occurred, and probably not until it is mandatory on all vehicles.

    Yuppie housewives can't even navigate their ginormous Escalades; I don't want them to have flying versions!

  • "To activate the mechanism that folds or deploys the wings, you have to be on the ground. There are sensors that tell the plane if you are on the ground. The engine also needs to be off. And you have to enter a personal identification number that only the pilot knows... We built a lot of safety mechanisms into this."

    Oh, really? You have to enter a PIN that only the pilot knows? Does this mean that the aircraft can sense whether someone other than the pilot knows the PIN, and won't activate in such case? ;-
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsFfBB2W7IA [youtube.com]

    so what would you give for the flying car?
  • by kharchenko (303729) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @01:51PM (#21307631)
    Here [theonion.com] is an interview asking the same question.
  • a sky filled with people who don't have pilot's licenses could also be a problem.

    Could be a problem...just a possibility, of course.
  • Sorry, but people have a hard enough time controlling a regular automobile in 2 dimensions, and there are tens of thousands of accidents every year.

    And whoever suggested complete auto-pilot is a moron. What happens when someone's auto-pilot screws up? The poor bastard in the cockpit still needs to know how to operate the thing safely.

    Sorry, but The Jetsons is still a long, LONG, LONG way off. If ever.

  • by swschrad (312009) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @02:42PM (#21308017) Homepage Journal
    tornado season, there are lots of them ;)
  • by Pluvius (734915) <pluvius3@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Saturday November 10, 2007 @03:18PM (#21308255) Journal
    But where are the flying cars? I was promised flying cars. I don't see any flying cars. Why? Why? Why. Because billions of people all over the world can work together on the Web 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You don't need flying cars, but you will need a different kind of software.

    It's a different kind of world; you need a different kind of software [youtube.com].

    Rob
  • Fuel (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mqduck (232646) <mqduck@@@mqduck...net> on Saturday November 10, 2007 @06:15PM (#21309285)
    Well, I think flying cars haven't come about because the idea is terrible, but that's not the point I'm gonna make.

    The point I'm gonna make: I would imagine these things take up quite a bit of fuel. Isn't this precisely the wrong time for that?
  • by atarione (601740) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @01:37AM (#21311307)
    1. I looks like the prop could be a huge hazard for anyone that was unfortunate enough to rear end this thing.

    2. It seems likely that this thing would have to be made a light as possible how is it going to stand up (or not) when a Suburban crashes into it

    3. assuming you had a only minor traffic accident... what would teh procedure(s) be to certify it was airworthy after a accident?

    it is also kinda fugly... but that is subjective i suppose.
  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @05:34AM (#21312001)
    Personally, I wouldn't want anyone incompetent driving a car that can move in full 3D in the air, we have enough problems with drivers on the ground. I'd want to see data and EXTREMELY stringent tests on people who get flying cars, you can hit anyone and anything at a moments notice. Not to mention turbelence and then the joy riding stupid people will do.

    I imagine during the early years there will be many accidents. Even our airplanes while mostly safe because of the years of experience, still suffer from difficulty of control. I've flown to and from places and when the plane swerves this way and that, it makes me shudder at the idiots being able to drive in the air. I really hope the technology develops to the point where we either

    1) Make it idiot proof or
    2) It's all automatically for the most part controlled, with a user-failsafe, or you can go manual, but you have "levels" of liscence that you can go unautomated.

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